New World Order

The world is changing. Fast.

Countries such as China, India and  Russia are beginning to ascertain major political significance, with growing populations, or growing economies and militaries all contributing towards their confidence on the world stage.

Although the perceived demise of the USA as the world’s policeman has been somewhat overstated in recent years, it is becoming clear that America and her close allies do not possess the power they once did.

This notion has come to fruition in various forms over recent years.

Putin, for example, is doing his best to drag the “Russian Bear” out from dormancy, by playing on historic fears of an anti-Russian Europe, traditional beliefs that Russia needs a defensive buffer zone to her west and aims to obtain a warm-water ocean port.  This increase in assertive self interest is usually veiled under the canopy of Russian nationalism.

When Russia came knocking in Crimea to liberate its ‘ethnically Russian’ population, a thought that may have been unthinkable in the not so distant past (Russian expansion without American response), came to be. And although the USA and co. have been very vocal in condemning the actions of Putin in Ukraine and Crimea, the “facts on the ground” would suggest that Putin has in fact, come out on top.

China, likewise, keen to prove itself on the world stage, and gain access to valuable resources surrounding various islands in the South China Sea, is beginning to flex its growing muscles. The creation of an expanded Chinese Defensive Airspace, in which any foreign military aircraft needs to be given advanced permission to enter, is yet another example of increased confidence in Beijing. Although the USA have gone to great lengths to ignore and dismiss these new Chinese imposed protocols, the fact that Asia’s most populous country is willing to implement them would point at a country coming quickly out of its shell.  The huge amount of money China spends on a Blue Water Navy would also support this view.  Increased Chinese aggression is becoming a long term trend in the waters surrounding the South East of the subcontinent, and as of yet, have been met with little US or Japanese intervention.

The USA may have little appetite to intervene directly in these smaller potential conflicts. But they are far from a ex-superpower: America still has the largest military budget on the planet, including the largest military R&D budget going.  They are still leading the game, just at much less of a margin than before.

As the world of economics and geopolitics continues to develop and shift, it is clear that the world is becoming more multipolar.  Substantial power now resides with a collection of countries in both the East and West of the planet. Political realities will alter accordingly.

History would imply that whenever a major shift in the balance of world power occurs, unease and conflict are generated.  Just looking back throughout the past 115 years is enough to prove this.

In a time of ‘post-war’ rhetoric it can be easy for established nations to rest on their laurels.

Change is coming, it always is.

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A Post Antibiotic Era?

In 1928 Sir Alexander Fleming revolutionised medicine with the discovery of penicillin, the first antibiotic.  His discovery allowed for quick solutions to common infections, preventing an unimaginable amount of deaths which before 1928 were commonplace.

However, this era of healthcare luxury may be coming to an end, leaving mankind staring into a bleak future.

Antibiotic resistance is beginning to render most drugs we take for granted today useless, the era of the ‘superbug’ may be much sooner than we think.  Bacteria are learning to deal with the drugs we throw at them at an alarmingly increasing speed, and the more we use these drugs, the more ineffective they become.

This trend is perhaps illustrated best by the spending plans of pharmaceutical companies, who see antibiotics as a shrinking market with little return on investment.  A firm may spend 10 years formulating an antibiotic, only for it to be rendered useless by bacteria a year later. In turn, this means that there is increasingly less effective drugs available to cure preventable diseases, and less money being pumped into antibiotic R&D.

The acceleration of bacteria resistance is caused partially by haphazard medical practice. For example, 45% of the prescriptions given by GP’s do not fix the issue they were prescribed for, wasting money and time whilst allowing bacteria to build up defences against these drugs.

New super-infections such as KPC, NDM and MRSA are beginning to gain traction in nearly every continent globally, effecting both developed and developing nations. And although we may take comfort in assuming cases of these diseases are extraordinary ‘one-offs’, 50,000 people in the USA and Europe died from infections last year which could not have been prevented by drugs.

A British based and funded medical enquiring into microbial resistance projects that if we can’t reign in the casual use of antibiotics that we practice today, by 2050, bacteria will have gained enough resistance to claim 10,000,000 lives a year.

Anti-biotics may well be the supporter of modern life and medicine, saving people with weakened immune systems, cancer patients, AIDS patients, transplant recipients, and even premature babies are all reliant on these drugs to sustain their lives.

The end of antibiotics would spell the end to the confident way in which we conduct life at present, as common infections begin to regain prevalence and claim victims from injuries and illnesses that we only view as minor hiccups today.

Sir Fleming himself warned:

“The thoughtless person playing with penicillin treatment is morally responsible for the death of the man which succumbs to infection with the penicillin-resistant organism.”

And it would seem that these dark warnings are now coming to fruition.

Without careful planning, leadership and coherent action from national governments and supranational organisations this problem has the potential to become a global crisis and must not be underestimated. The future of the livelihoods we enjoy today may depend on it.

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