FC98: Talk Is Cheap

Plus, The Narrow Waist Of The Internet, Thomas Friedman is the worst (so are brains), and good news on FGM in Sudan, traffic deaths in the US and coal power in the UK.

Keeping it sweet and short in this edition.

There’s been a lot of high-minded sentiment from us recently - but as we all know, talk is cheap. Time now for some action. We’ve spent the last few weeks looking around to see how we can make an impact, and found three new charity partners.

The first is The One People Fund in Johannesburg, South Africa. Led by Marcus, Jason and Nicola, they’re distributing maize meal to families who cannot eat because of the current COVID-19 lockdown. A 12.5kg bag costs around A$5 and can sustain a family of four people for two weeks. 100% of the funds they receive go towards purchasing and distributing the food, and in the last two weeks this amazing team has fed over 17,000 families. We’re sending them A$3,000. Here’s a video from Marcus saying thanks.


The second are the Desi Masala team in Bangalore, India. Led by three brothers, Sachin, Sandeep, and Manish, they’re working relentlessly to feed the poor across Bengaluru. They’ve converted their vegetarian restaurant to cook for the cause, with family and friends pitching in. As word has spread across the city, volunteers (including local police) have joined them and are now preparing, packaging and distributing thousands of meals a day. We’re sending them A$4,000 which should be enough to feed 10,000 people for a day.


Our third partner is Development Media International. This is an organisation that works in low income countries using radio and social media to broadcast public health messages. They’re launching COVID-19 campaigns in Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Tanzania, Ivory Coast and Ethiopia to promote respiratory hygiene behaviours, hand washing, and physical distancing.

We think they’re the best way to create maximum impact with the donations you’ve sent us. DMI has been identified by GiveWell (the effective altruism folks) as a standout charity since 2014, so we know they spend their money well, and this current campaign on COVID-19 is highly time sensitive - the sooner they get the message out there the more lives they’ll save. We’re sending them A$12,400. They’re going to use it to buy equipment such as solar panels to keep the radio station in Burkina Faso running during power outages, and for laptops and broadcast software.

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Thanks to everyone who supported these initiatives, you know who you are.

Good news you might not have heard about


A decade ago over 40% of the UK’s electricity came from coal. This week, it clocked up its first full coal free month since the advent of the power grid in 1882. Gizmodo

Sweden has closed its last coal-fired power station two years ahead of schedule, becoming the third European country to exit coal. Independent

The world’s largest wealth fund has blacklisted Glencore, Anglo American, Sasol, AGL and four Canadian oil firms for excessive emissions. Reuters

Chile has become the 2nd South American country - and the 7th in the world - to update their national Paris Agreement climate action plan. Reuters

The IEA says greenhouse gas emissions will fall by more than 8% this year, the largest annual decrease ever recorded. NPR

Abu Dhabi has announced the lowest price ever for solar - 1.35 US cents per kWh. That’s 45% lower than just three years ago. Forbes

Sudan’s new government has outlawed the practice of female genital mutilation, a major victory for women’s rights campaigners. NYT

Pennsylvania has banned child marriage, the third state to fully outlaw the practice after Delaware and New Jersey. CBS

Germany's parliament has banned so-called "gay conversion therapy" the fifth nation to do so after Malta, Ecuador, Brazil and Taiwan. NBC

Brazil’s Supreme Court has overturned rules that limit gay and bisexual men from donating blood, a victory for LGBTQI+ people in the country. Reuters

An Israeli billionaire is planning to deliver hundreds of generators that can produce drinking water out of thin air to Gaza, “because they are our neighbors and it’s a great pity to look at them suffering from such severe water shortages.” Times of Israel

In this April 30, 2020, photo, Palestinian engineer Raed Nakhal from Palestine Children Relief Fund, right, and engineer Abdullah Dewik, check the GEN-M machine that generates safe drinking water from air at the roof of al-Rantisi pediatric hospital in Gaza City. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Palestinian engineer Raed Nakhal from Palestine Children Relief Fund, right, and engineer Abdullah Dewik, check the GEN-M machine that generates safe drinking water from air at the roof of al-Rantisi pediatric hospital in Gaza City, 30th April 2020 (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Canada has introduced an immediate ban on semi-automatic assault weapons. 1,500 models are covered by the new prohibition. NYT

Government data has shown that US traffic deaths fell in 2019 for the third straight year, even as overall road use increased. Reuters

The UK government has announced a £2 billion package to create a ‘new era’ for cycling and walking infrastructure in the wake of the pandemic.

The Welsh government has announced plans for a national forest running the length and breath of the country, "connected ecological network.” BBC

Wildlife experts in Belgium are getting excited to welcome the country's first set of wild wolf cubs in more than 100 years. Brussels Times

Bald eagles have made a huge comeback in Wisconsin in the last 45 years, thanks to the DDT ban, the passage of endangered species laws, river cleanups under the Clean Water Act and public support for nest monitoring. ABC

Black River
A bald eagle snatches a fish from the Black River in La Crosse in this 2017 photo. Source: La Crosse Tribune

Indistinguishable from magic


A Chinese team has demonstrated a microwave plasma thruster, using only air and electricity to create thrust with the same efficiency as a jet engine. New Atlas

Kenyan and British scientists have discovered the microbe that prevents mosquitoes from being infected with malaria - a finding with "enormous potential" to control the disease. BBC

A startup in California has compressed brain monitoring machines to the size of a helmet, creating the ability to monitor electrical impulses and blood flow with unprecedented accuracy. Bloomberg

Engineers at Stanford have taken a big step towards wireless recharging for electric cars, with a device that works while the vehicle is in motion. Stanford

Roboticists from North Carolina have mimicked cheetahs to develop the fastest moving soft robot, capable of 2.7 body lengths per second. CNET

Google has launched an AI assistant that helps children learn to read by providing feedback, and is available in over 180 countries.

Off the beaten track in the dark forest *


Wondering what you can do to help? The lovely people at Thought Starter have compiled 50 simple things you can do right now to change the world for the better. While you’re at it, read their back story, it’s a good one.

“Kraftwerk were so stiff, they were funky." Read this tribute to Florian Schneider and then spend a day going down the listening rabbit hole. NPR

Forget AI, Marko Jucic says it’s time to take OI (Octopus Intelligence) seriously. We may have to fight ink with ink. Palladium

Epic thread from Ali Yahya about The Narrow Waist of the Internet. Not sure how we haven’t heard of this before. So blockchain! Wow. Twitter

Audrey Watters in a blistering keynote at CUNY “The best way to predict the future of education is to get Thomas Friedman to write an op-ed in NYT about your idea and then college administrators will believe it's inevitable.”

Do you know there was once an epidemic in WoW that killed off millions of pets? Nikhil Krishnan thinks there are lessons for our current predicament.

And finally, it’s been far too long since we’ve featured something from Mr Monroe. Brains are the worst. Indeed. xkcd


That’s it for now. Thanks to our Patreon supporters, and our paid subscribers here on Substack. You’re the ones that made those donations possible. You’re helping feed people and save lives. Nice work.

How’s everyone doing out there? Let us know in the comments section.

Big love,

Gus, Tane and the rest of the FC team.


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