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Why China is seducing Afghanistan | ticker VIEWS

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Afghanistan holds the key to an untapped trove of minerals the world needs, worth $1 trillion

Under Afghanistan soil sits an untouched quantity of minerals including copper, iron ore, lithium, and rare bauxite. These minerals could power the world’s transition to renewable energies, but the precious minerals remain unearthed.

Shortly after the capital fell to the Taliban, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry expressed willingness to build relations. Insisting Beijing is “ready to develop friendly cooperation” with Afghanistan.

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi meets with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, political chief of Afghanistan’s Taliban, July 28, 2021.

Untouched minerals

A report by the US Geological Survey has proven the valuable minerals hidden within the Afghanistan mountains are more valuable than anywhere else in the world currently.

Copper is valuable in making power cables, and prices are sitting at more than $10, 000 per tonne. Lithium is a vital element that helps to make electric car batteries, wind farms, and solar panels.

Now, with the world transitioning to net-zero emissions targets the demand for Lithium will only increase. The International Energy Agency is predicting it will grow by over 40 times by 2040.

These untapped minerals have been estimated at over $1 trillion by the US Geological Survey, but Afghanistan values it three times this amount. The country also mines coal, iron, and marble.

Over the last 20 years, the Taliban hasn’t had enough power or financial support to tap into these highly sought-after minerals. This could set them high on the world’s economic chart.

Now, as they resume power, questions need to be raised over China’s interest in building a relationship and willingness to do business with the Taliban.

The state-owned China Metallurgical Group Corporation won rights to lease the giant Mes Aynak copper ore deposit in Afghanistan for 30 years. This allows them to extract 11.5 million tonnes of the commodity.

The project hasn’t started operations yet because of safety issues.

China’s diplomatic and economic motives in Afghanistan

While the rest of the world is shocked and frightened of the Taliban takeover, questions remain over China’s economic motives and diplomatic interests in the region.

“Afghanistan has a large supply of rare earth elements, China wants to secure these.”

Dr. John Coyne, The Australian Strategic Policy Institute

“Already 80% of the global market of rare earths is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, so it’s critical for the Chinese Government to secure this supply.”

Dr. John Coyne, Australian Strategic Policy Institute 

“China and Russia are looking at Afghanistan as a gold rush but it’s also going to be a continuing counterterrorism threat”

Oz Sultan, Counterterrorism analyst

Building an alliance

Another reason for China’s interest in building relations, its to protect itself from future terror attacks.

Dr. Teagan Westendorf from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, questions whether China will take the risk and step up as the main financier, now that the US has withdrawn.

Becoming a vital financial aid to the region, could build a strong alliance and prevent future terror groups or attacks spilling onto Chinese soil.

A shared regional problem

Dr. Westendorf says Afghanistan is a concern for all of its neighbouring countries including Russia, India, and China.

“Afghanistan has become a shared regional problem and it’s something that I don’t think that any of these countries will be able to wash their hands from it. It will affect them geostrategically.” 

Dr. Teagan Westendorf, Australian Strategic Policy Institute

 

Holly is an anchor and reporter at Ticker. She's experienced in live reporting, and has previously covered the Covid-19 pandemic on-location. She's passionate about telling stories in business, climate and health.

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Leading athletes and medical experts push for medicinal cannabis in sport

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Leading lawmakers, medical experts and athletes are pushing for therapeutic use of medicinal cannabis for chronic pain and injury

Basketball star Brittney Griner is one of the leading players of her generation. She jumped into the spotlight for serving a sentence for possession of cannabis oil in Russia.

It begs the question whether medicinal cannabis and athletes are a good mix. Well, many lawmakers, health experts and athletes around the world want to break down the stigmas associated with its use.

Many want to use Griner’s ordeal as motivation to change cannabis laws and therapeutic use exemptions in sports.

Mark Brayshaw, Managing Director of Levin Health has spoken closely with Dr. Peter Brukner who is a world-renowned Australian sports medicine clinician and researcher.

Dr. Peter Brukner

Brukner believes athletes should be able to compete in their field with medicinal cannabis because it doesn’t enhance their performance.

“Medicinal cannabis is arguably performance diminishing rather than performance enhancing…

It’s likely to be taken off the ban list in the near future.”

Mark Brayshaw, Managing Director of Levin Health

“I don’t see there are any risks at all.”

Mark Brayshaw, Managing Director of Levin Health

Brayshaw believes there are higher risks for athletes becoming addicted to anti-inflammatory and opioids. As opposed to any risks associated with taking medicinal cannabis.

He explains it enables athletes to function in a healthy way, pain free.

Overall, there is hope Griner’s case will break down stigma surrounding natural medicines and athletes.

In Australia, there are tens of thousands of new applications for medicinal cannabis every month.

“We’re seeing a significant stigma reduction… There are 30,000 new applications every month [in Australia] for medicinal cannabis...

In the right hands, and through a GP it can be a very safe alternative to opioids and anti-inflammatories in the treatment of chronic pain.”

Mark Brayshaw, Managing Director of Levin Health

There are also growing calls for countries to adopt therapeutic use exemptions in sport, including in the Australian Football League.

“We’ve got Alistair Clarkson and Damien Hardwick on our board, they’ve taken a keen interest… Yes, it’s on the rise.”

Mark Brayshaw, Managing Director of Levin Health

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Why is China’s changing its strategy to handling the pandemic?

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Changes to China’s COVID policies are coming thick and fast, much faster than many people anticipated given how strict the country has been in the last few years, the latest big announcement is around an app that people had to install on their phone

Then it tracked them when they travelled across the country, alerting them if they’ve been to a high risk COVID area, the government says that that app is now deactivated and people no longer have to have it installed on their phones.

It’s yet another indication of the change in China’s strategy to handling the pandemic.

We’ve seen changes related to quarantine, and also testing as well. And a real change in narrative from the authorities when talking about the virus and how dangerous it is. Now officially case numbers are dropping.

But that is largely due to the fact that much less testing is taking place, and we are seeing signs that in reality cases are surging.

There’s queues of people outside of pharmacies, queuing to get medication for colds and for fevers, and also self testing kits as well.

On social media, many people in China now saying that they have caught COVID For the first time, or that they know a number of people who have COVID When previously they didn’t know anyone at all.

So it’s clear that cases are rising, and this is coming just the month before the Chinese New Year holidays, which will take place at the end of January, traditionally a time when millions of people will travel across the country.

We would expect that to happen this year, as travel within China is now much easier.

So we would expect COVID cases to spread across the country talking to travel and is yet no sign of when the borders will open internationally.

Still very, very hard to get into China and very strict. When people do enter and the procedures they have to follow.

Maybe the government will wait and see how the first phase of reopening goes domestically, before thinking internationally?

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TICKER NEWS INSIGHT

Children are our future, but cancer is impacting far too many of them

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Children are our future and that’s why investing in childhood cancer is critical to improving treatments and research

Cancer does not discriminate. It is a major cause of death in children worldwide. While there has been tremendous progress in fighting childhood cancer, significant investment is required to improve access to treatments and diversify research.

Lance Kawaguchi, who heads Cure Brain Cancer Foundation is passionate about raising awareness and funds to beat childhood cancer.

“It’s critically important that we invest more in childhood cancer…I want to make sure that we can have enough funds to support not just certain types of cancer… But also the ones that have less volume.”

Lance kawaguchi, ceo, cure brain cancer

Why invest in Childhood Cancer?

Childhood cancer is a major cause of death in children worldwide, impacting children aged 0-14.

The most common cancers diagnosed in children is leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), brain and nervous system cancers.

Significant investment is required to improve access to treatments and diversify research.

Often, certain types of cancers remain underfunded and under-researched. However, just because they’re less common, shouldn’t mean they’re less important.

Brain Stem brain tumours like DIPG, primarily affects children, with most diagnoses occurring between 5 and 7 years of age.

It makes up approximately 10-15% of all brain tumours in children. Unfortunately, fewer than 10% of children survive.

Simon Gray lost his son Tom when he was seven years old, and is on a mission to prevent other parents from going through the same grief.

We need to raise more funds for this kind of cancer… We don’t want another parent to have to sit in a room with a bunch of doctors and be told ‘just go create some memories, there’s no if buts or maybe, he’s just going to die’

Simon Gray, cancer advocate

Need For More Specific Paediatric Cancer Treatments

There is a need to develop cancer treatments specifically for children and invest more in enabling this to happen effectively.

A relative lack of cancer research in children limits how to treat them. As a result, some children with cancer are dealt adult treatments, which are often ineffective.

Childhood cancer treatments very rarely reach FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) or EMA (European Medicines Agency) approval.

Therefore, it’s critical that more money is invested into treatment and research for childhood cancer.

Katie Banovich’s 6-year-old son Greyson is a cancer survivor. Greyson has emerged as an inspiration to all those who hear his story. His courage and resilience are a testament that no one should ever give up hope when confronted with adversity.

Katie believes it is through our collective efforts that we will continue to make strides in the fight against childhood cancers.

“Get involved, everyone can help. Awareness of the problem leads to motivation to solve it. And motivation leads to action.”

Katie banovich, cancer advocate

Any family can be impacted by childhood cancer, it does not discriminate. For some they have a positive outcome, but for many they are forced to live out a nightmare.

It’s crucial that we make the fight against childhood cancer a global fight.

In our experience, the key flaws have been a lack of options for treating paediatric brain cancers.

Our daughter Olivia was diagnosed at 18 months… It’s very high risk giving children radiation at such a young age.
.. We had limited options.

Andrew macphillamy, cancer advocate

Centres of Excellence fighting childhood cancer

1. Australia – Children’s Cancer Institute

The Children’s Cancer Institute (CCI) in Australia is celebrating thirty years of working with like-minded individuals and organisations to fund innovative research projects, world-class clinical care, and quality family support programs. To date, the foundation has raised over A$60.5 million. This capital was spent on a range of programs that align with the CCIs goals of improving the lives of children affected by cancer.

2. Qatar – Sidra Medicine

Sidra Medicine, located in the innovative Education City in Qatar is a benchmark for family healthcare in the Middle East. This 400-bed medical centre caters solely to women and children, offering state-of-the-art health care in a collaborative, research-driven environment. Sidra Medicine aims to establish itself as a global leader in the research of cancer and precision medicine. In September 2022, the institute published a study highlighting the successful use of precision medicine to guide the treatment of some paediatric cancers.

3. US – National Pediatric Cancer Foundation

Childhood cancer is the leading cause of death resulting from illness in children aged four to fourteen in the United States. Sadly, only 4% of the billions of dollars spent on cancer research annually go to funding research for paediatric cancers. The National Pediatric Cancer Foundation (NPCF) formed an innovative collaboration called the Sunshine Project. The primary goal of this project is to fast-track a more targeted and less toxic cure for paediatric cancer by bringing together the nation’s foremost researchers and medical professionals. Since 2005, the Sunshine Project has funded several clinical trials and translational studies in excess of US$ 33 million.

4. The European Society for Paediatric Oncology

The European Society for Paediatric Oncology (SIOPE) was established to ensure optimal care and outcomes for children and adolescents with cancer in Europe. The society is active across many areas including research, care, training and education, and EU advocacy. They are driven to facilitate collaborative research across the European continent as well as the promotion of novel treatment modalities in use in clinical trials. Seated in Brussels, SIOPE is ideally situated to promote and advocate better policies for children with cancer to EU policy makers.

Report contributed by Holly Stearnes, Lance Kawaguchi and Cure Brain Cancer Foundation.

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