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This week in Tortoise – Into the dark: The broken promise of a bionic eye

This week in Tortoise – Into the dark: The broken promise of a bionic eye

Among all the dreadful news, it was a moment of joy: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe reunited with her husband Richard and daughter Gabriella after her six-year ordeal in Iran. Her release was brought about by the payment of a 43-year-old debt to Iran by Britain – a debt that Richard campaigned relentlessly for the government to settle.

As my colleague Ceri Thomas laid out in last week’s Editor’s Voicemail, Richard, through his campaigning, is not just a heroic figure, but an historic one: he has changed the way we relate to power in the UK. Ceri’s Slow Newscast Nazanin: Trapped in Whitehall was the first investigation into how Iran took Nazanin hostage in a dispute with the British government over the debt. It’s one element of three years of coverage – the ThinkIns with Richard Ratcliffe in our newsroom (both back in 2020 and just last month); a Slow Newscast on Evin Prison where Nazanin was held; and the reporting on the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna – that I hope demonstrates that, when we find a story, we stay with it. It’s all here – a collection of journalism that should shed some light on why Nazanin was imprisoned and why she was released.

Invaded: Voicemails from Ukraine was described by the FT last week “as a quietly devastating podcast comprising short voice messages from Ukrainians in which they describe their new reality… That the contributors send their messages every few days, and in some cases daily, creates a rare intimacy; as the listener, you worry for them and want to know how they’re doing.” In the last few days, only more so. Please do listen. And if you’re trying to understand where things are headed, please do read Giles Whittell’s Sensemaker email every day at 11am, London time.

Through the use of a retinal implant and some smart medical technology, the company Second Sight partially restored the sight of around 350 people suffering from the eye disorder retinitis pigmentosa. It changed lives. But in 2020 Second Sight found itself on the verge of bankruptcy and pulled its support for the technology. Once a user’s implant stopped working, so would their eyesight. It’s a story that heralds questions to come. Who is responsible for the body when parts have been implanted? What is expected of healthcare companies that build component parts for bodies, but then cease to exist or move on to other products? This week’s Slow Newscast is an investigation into the ethics of healthtech. It’s called: ‘Into the dark: The broken promise of a bionic eye’.

This week’s ThinkIns:

Monday, Tuesday and Thursday’s ThinkIns will all be taking place in our newsroom in central London as well as online. If you’re able to make it, we’d love to see you there.

Have a very good week.


James Harding
Editor & co-founder