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The 100-year life

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latest from sensemaker

Sharp out

Richard Sharp has resigned as chairman of the BBC after a report on his involvement in an £800,000 loan guarantee for Boris Johnson found he’d breached the code for public appointments. Sharp has always insisted he played no part in facilitating or financing the loan, but he’s quit over what he called an “inadvertent” failure to disclose his role in setting up a meeting between the cabinet secretary, Simon Case, and Sam Blyth – the distant Canadian cousin who was offering the then-PM financial help – to an appointments panel before taking up the BBC role. Not doing so was an “oversight”, he said. The BBC board thanked him and called him “a real man of integrity”. The ultimate source of the £800,000 remains unclear. Learn more about this case, and others, in our podcast series Boris Johnson: The six million pound man.

Killer syrup

Poisonous cough syrup is circulating in the Western Pacific. It’s made by QP Pharmachem Ltd in India and sold to Cambodia, but how it got to Micronesia and the Marshall Islands is a mystery. What is clear is that the syrup can be dangerous, especially for children. It’s contaminated with “unacceptable amounts” of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol, and the WHO says consumption can be fatal. So far no deaths have been reported in the Western Pacific, but the risks are only too real. Last year more than 300 children, most of them under five, were killed across Indonesia, Gambia and Uzbekistan after taking similarly contaminated medicines.

Flight out of danger

Two weeks ago, Khartoum was a bustling metropole on the Nile. Safer, some would argue, than parts of London; a place where you could dip your toes in the river next to guitar players and see whirling Sufi dervishes in the evening. Now the “at cost” price of a plane ticket out is about £20,000, including checkpoint bribes, according to one source in private security. More than a hundred British troops have landed near Khartoum to help evacuate thousands of UK passport holders. Things get worse each day. Yesterday, the WHO warned that the situation was “extremely dangerous after fighters occupied a lab holding measles and polio samples which could pose a “biological risk.”

Kenya cults

Kenyan police have dug up more than 70 bodies thought to belong to members of a suicide cult. Authorities believe that Paul Mackenzie Nthenge, head of the Good News International Church, persuaded fellow church members to starve themselves so they could “meet Jesus” in the afterlife. Exhumations began on Friday in a forest in eastern Kenya, with the death toll rising as more graves were discovered. This is not the first time religious cultism in Kenya has made headlines: in 2020 a British woman who had travelled to Kenya before lockdown was found dead at the home of a spiritual leader in the city of Mombasa, and in 2018 Kenyan authorities had warned against a group called the Young Blud Saints, which recruited university students in Nairobi. Its members were required to “sacrifice what they love most” to prove their loyalty.



In conversation with Caroline Criado-Perez

Caroline Criado Perez has spent years investigating the gender data gap — and how women are simply forgotten in a world designed for men. Her best-selling book, Invisible Women, was published to critical acclaim, and Caroline was inundated with readers sharing their own stories of the “default male”.  But what happens next? How can we close the gender data gap and design a world that works for everyone? In Visible Women, a new 12-part podcast series from Tortoise, Caroline recovers invisible women from history, hunts for missing data, and gets into fights with manufacturing companies. Most importantly, she will look to the future, and ask: how do we solve such a giant problem? Join us for a ThinkIn with Caroline where we discuss her world and work, and how we can fix a world designed by men.  editor and invited experts Liz MoseleyEditor Caroline Criado-PerezJournalist, Activist and Author of ‘Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men’


Making sense of dating apps, with Liz Moseley

Tinder claims to have recorded 60 billion matches since its conception in 2012, with around 75 million people using the app every month. Whilst Tinder is the most universally used app, competitors like Hinge and Bumble are climbing the ranks. Alternatives such as Thursday are gaining popularity in cities, where emphasis is placed on meeting in-person, dodging prolonged and awkward digital chat. It’s estimated that over 413 million people have used dating apps globally. This number is set to grow — spurred on by the pandemic — rather than quashed. In March 2020, Tinder recorded its highest number of swipes on a single day: 3 billion. But what do dating apps actually mean for love, romance and society at large?Join Tortoise Members Editor Liz Moseley  and special guests as she makes  sense of dating apps. This ThinkIn will revisit earlier reporting by Tortoise, and explore the new ethical questions raised by the commercialisation of loneliness through dating apps in a post lockdown world. editor and invited experts Liz MoseleyEditor Kathryn KosmidesFounder & CEO, Garbo.io Matt McNeill LoveCo-Founder and COO, Thursday


Should any woman be put in prison?

Women make up around 4% of the UK prison population, which means that more than 3,000 women are incarcerated in a system largely designed for men. They’re often poor, marginalised, traumatised and vulnerable individuals, mostly convicted for non-violent and petty crimes, More than half of women in prison have little or no educational qualifications, many have drug and alcohol dependencies, and an alarming number suffer from mental health issues. NHS data shows two thirds of women in prison are suffering from a mental disorder with record numbers being driven to suicide or self-harm by the lack of appropriate care. Does incarceration of women do more harm than good for society, and if so – what’s the alternative? editor and invited experts Liz MoseleyEditor Angela KirwinFormer Prison Social Worker and Author of ‘Criminal: How our prisons are failing us all’ Keri BlakingerJournalist and Author of ‘Corrections in Ink: Dispatches from an American Prison’


Should we legalise drugs?

The United States imprisons more people than any other nation in the world – largely due to the war on drugs. Misguided drug laws and harsh sentencing have produced profoundly unequal outcomes for different ethnic groups. The value of the global illegal drugs trade is estimated to be between $350-500billion a year; an economy that can’t currently be regulated or taxed. Should the war on drugs be replaced by decriminalisation strategies grounded in science, health, security and human rights? Is there a sensible case for legalisation, and how would that even work?  editor and invited experts Luke GbedemahData Reporter Graham JohnsonInvestigative reporter, author of ‘Powder Wars’ and ‘Druglord’ Naomi Burke-ShyneExecutive Director, Harm Reduction International Neil WoodsChairman, L.E.A.P. UK (Law Enforcement Action Partnership) UK Norman LambFormer MP, Founder of Sir Norman Lamb Mental Health & Wellbeing Fund Ricky GunawanProgram Officer, Drugs Policy, Open Society Foundations (OSF)


Unspiked: what did we learn from the “epidemic” that never was?

This is a digital-only ThinkIn.Earlier this year, a Tortoise investigation found that last autumn’s “needle spiking epidemic” almost certainly didn’t happen – at least not in the way it was reported to have done. But that’s not the end of this story. Our research unearthed as many questions as it did answers. Why is there no crime code for drink spiking? If we don’t know how big the problem is, what steps can we take to fix it? Why do police toxicology reports take anywhere between three months to a year to come back?  What does the “spiking epidemic” phenomenon of last autumn tell us about women’s trust in the police, and trust between women and men more generally? Might believing alleged victims without scrutiny do more harm than good in the long run? This ThinkIn is part of Tortoise Investigates: Police and Misogyny. A year-long collaboration between Tortoise reporters and members, this project seeks to explore the way police culture consistently permits the failure to prosecute, and sometimes even to investigate, sexual and violent crime against women and girls.If you have an experience to share that would help our investigation, on or off the record, please contact liz@tortoisemedia.com. editor and invited experts Liz MoseleyEditor Patricia ClarkeTortoise Data Journalist and Reporter Vickie BurginScience Director, Forensic Capability Network


Does Britain really want Ukrainian refugees?

This is a digital-only ThinkIn. Come to any of our ThinkIns on the invasion of Ukraine for free to contribute to the discussion, using the invite code JOININ.The polls suggest that Britain wants to welcome Ukrainian refugees, and the government has announced commitments to allow more than 100,000 Ukrainian refugees into the country. But a difficult dilemma remains: many people voted Brexit so the UK would reclaim control of its borders, and two weeks after the invasion, the number of visas issued remains very small. Britain has issued under 1,000 visas – an amount dwarfed by smaller European countries like Moldova and Romania. How can the government reconcile its pledge to impose tighter controls on immigration, with the need to respond to the refugee crisis caused by the invasion? Was the confusion around entry requirements just incompetence, or is time to admit the UK is now a hostile environment for migrants? editor and invited experts Giles WhittellSensemaker Editor Daniel SohegeSafeguarding Expert, Love146 Enver SolomonChief Executive, Refugee Council


How can we be happier? A ThinkIn with Will Young

Easter special: in-person and digital tickets tickets are available to all members for this ThinkIn.Navigating day-to-day life can be a tricky business. By the time we are adults, our experiences have formed our way of thinking and we have learned patterns of behaviour that are not always helpful. We must unravel these to understand, accept, nurture and allow ourselves to rise with our vulnerabilities, not in spite of them.After having a breakdown in 2011, Will Young began a process of interrogating everything he thought he knew: how he formed his identity, what he relied on for self-esteem and how he behaved and communicated. His story raises many questions, such as: How do seemingly mundane daily moments affect our wellbeing? How can we better understand our emotions and where they come from? Join us for a very special ThinkIn with Will Young, talking about his latest book: “Be yourself and happier” where he shares his own vulnerabilities with his trademark wit and wisdom. We’ll explore advice on how to identify destructive patterns, develop good mindful habits, be true to who we are and grow into better versions of ourselves. editor and invited experts Liz MoseleyEditor Will YoungSinger-songwriter, Actor and Author of ‘Be Yourself & Happier: The A-Z of Wellbeing’


PTSD in the armed forces: could MDMA be the answer?

This is a digital-only ThinkIn.MDMA was originally developed by German scientists more than a century ago. In the 1970s some psychiatrists used the chemical to enhance communication with patients. The practice fell from favour when MDMA became better known as a party drug and the principal ingredient in ecstasy pills. ‘E’s kickstarted the ‘Second Summer of Love’ of 1989 in the UK and MDMA – also known as ‘molly’ –  became intertwined with club culture. Today, psychiatrists are successfully experimenting with therapeutic MDMA as a treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), with promising trials among US veterans. Last year, General Sir Nick Carter, the outgoing UK Chief of Defence Staff, gave his support to clinical trials of MDMA to treat British soldiers with PTSD. Early signs indicate it could be more effective than talking therapies, and offer thousands of veterans relief from serious mental trauma. What kinds of PTSD does it work for, and are there any other banned substances which could be used in treating mental health conditions?  Join us for this ThinkIn with General Sir Nick Carter and other experts and campaigners where we’ll explore how a Class-A recreational drug could become the latest psychiatric treatment.  editor and invited experts James HardingCo-founder and Editor General Sir Nick CarterFormer Chief of Defence Staff Gilly NortonCEO, Support for Wounded Veterans Rick DoblinFounder and Executive Director, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS)


After Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, Peter Connelly and Victoria Climbié: what should social workers do?

This is a digital-only ThinkIn. Every time we learn of the horrendous abuse of a child a spotlight is shone on the child protection system. Reviews are launched and the same lessons learned – but it keeps on happening. At the same time, the care system is struggling with more children than have been removed from their families since records began in the early 1990s. It falls on social workers to support families, identify abuse, and marshall the care system. It’s one of the hardest jobs in the world. Is there a different way social workers could do it? editor and invited experts Liz Moseley Editor Beverley-Barnett Jones Associate Director for System and Impact, Nuffield Family Justice Observatory Cathy Ashley Chief Executive, Family Rights Group Dame Rachel de Souza Children’s Commissioner for England Polly Curtis Journalist and author of Behind Closed Doors: Why We Break Up Families – and How to Mend Them