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ABC Radio: Digging around

By Gill Savage

In March it was revealed that foreign agents had infiltrated Australia to chase secrets, cultivate local politicians and monitor 'their country's diaspora'. It is believed that these foreign agents are from Rwanda. Daniel Flitton takes us through some of the threats and attempted killings by the Rwandan regime both here and in Spain. He says that 'complaints have also recently aired in the United Kingdom about Rwandan communities being forced to pledge an oath of loyalty or risk having relatives threatened at home – claims Rwanda has denied'. He believes that these actions 'very much at odds with Rwanda’s international reputation as a Switzerland or a Singapore in the heart of Africa, crafted around ideals of reconciliation, progress and successful development'. So why are they doing it and how can they be stopped?

Then, (at 15 mins) did you know that Australia ' has the world’s sixth-largest reserves of rare-earth minerals and is the second-largest producer, but the bulk of our resource is largely untapped'. Currently we export it but should we be thinking about manufacturing it ourselves? Gill Savage says that Australia needs to 'extract itself from the old habit of exploiting our natural resources and sending them to production lines overseas only to buy back manufactured products through our imports'. She explains why this commodity is so valuable and what uses it and why and believes that 'Australia is not yet positioned to reap the full benefits of rare-earth export. What will it take to change the habits of a nation?

Also, (at 25 mins) Amanda gets on her soapbox to rant about harassment.

Also, (at 27 mins) as we all get vaccinated against COVID-19 it's worth remembering another vaccine rollout...for small poxDr Michael Bennett takes us through the history of the smallpox vaccination and its 'arm to arm' method. He says that 'children of the poor were immunised at no charge and, on returning to clinics for examination, were put arm-to-arm with the next batch of children. Some vaccine was dried, often on cotton threads, as a future supply'. In Russia 'children vaccinated in one province were escorted to go “arm-to-arm” with children in the next. In 1803, King Carlos of Spain launched an even grander expedition that, by vaccinating a succession of children, delivered live vaccine to Spanish America and then across the Pacific to Manila and Macao'. He believes that the 'global spread of the vaccine itself owed a lot to the universal dread of smallpox but also to humanitarian enthusiasm and international collaboration'.

Finally, (at 40 mins) what's in a bird nest? They come in all shapes and sizes and recently a study looked at '900 Australian nest specimens dating back over 195 years'. Dr Dominique Potvin tells us about that study and what they found. She says that 'before the 1950s, human-made debris found in the nests consisted of degradable items such as cotton thread and paper. This changed in 1956, when we found the first synthetic item in a bird nest from Melbourne: a piece of polyester string'. Nests built in the 1990'2 showed that 'the most sought-after items included brightly coloured plastics, such as straws, pen lids and bottle caps'. The problem, she says, is that 'when birds weave non-biodegradable materials — such as fishing line and polymer rope — into their nests, it increases the risk of entanglement, amputation and even accumulation of plastics in the gut of nestlings'. How can we protect the birds? Stop littering because 'if the trend continues, the future for Australian birds looks bleak.