Our editors give us a breakdown of this week’s current affairs
Europe: Cameron Fulton
Moving into its seventh week, the latest tragedy of the Ukraine crisis has been at Kramatorsk, where fifty people were killed in a Russian missile offensive. This includes 5 children, as civilians were attempting evacuation via the targeted train station. The killings come as Russia begins to focus on the eastern Dombas region, with sources suggesting troops are migrating east, as promised by Russian authorities last week. Whilst the rest of Ukraine, including its capital Kyiv, has been relieved of constant bombardment pressure, humanitarian organisations will fear further collateral damage is likely.
Domestically, Russia is beginning to face the bite of western sanctions, with interest rates being cut to 17%. This is below the peak of 20% in February, in the immediate aftermath of the invasion, which was implemented with the rouble in freefall. The Russian currency’s performance has since improved. Though the Russian Central Bank’s announcement was unscheduled, the move cannot be considered unexpected with borrowing costs needing to be brought down to offer some substance to the trodden economy.
Elsewhere, France is to go to the polls for the first time in its election process, which includes all candidates who can gain enough signatures. From this, the top two candidates will then be in an electoral showdown until the second and final vote, on the 24th of April. The expected candidates are President, Emmanuel Macron, and right-wing foe, Marine Le Pen, in a repeat of the 2017 duel. Yet, polling numbers have narrowed, with Macron fearing the election is not yet won. This week, one poll even suggested the election result was currently in the margin of error, with Macron’s campaign being labelled lacklustre and his response to the Ukraine crisis criticised.
Science & Technolgoy: Abi Byrne
Two notebooks written by Charles Darwin have been anonymously returned to Cambridge University Library. Librarians announced in 2020 that the notebooks had been stolen, after assuming for 20 years that they had been misplaced in their large collections. The small leather-bound books are worth many millions of pounds and include the scientist’s “tree of life” sketch. They date from the late 1830s after Darwin had returned from the Galapagos Islands. One page contains a spindly sketch of a tree, which helped inspire his theory of evolution and more than 20 years later would become a central theory in his groundbreaking work “On the Origin of Species”. “My sense of relief at the notebooks’ safe return is profound and almost impossible to adequately express,” says librarian Jessica Gardner. Who returned the notebooks remains a mystery, they were left anonymously in a bright pink gift bag containing the original blue box the notebooks were kept in and a short message: “Librarian, Happy Easter X.”
Theory: Cassi Ainsworth-Grace
New research by economists Andrés Barrios-Fernández and Jorge García-Hombrados has found that local institutions can help reduce reincarceration rates for former inmates. Their paper examined the relationship between Evangelical church openings in the country of Chile and the reincarceration rates in the neighbourhoods in which the churches were opened. The main finding from their research was that the opening of an Evangelical church reduced 12-month reincarceration rates among property-crime offenders by more than 11 percentage points. Much of this fall – 7.3 percentage points – occurred within three months of the release date of the former inmate. Overall, their results highlight the importance of community institutions to prevent reincarceration, for example, the social support provided by Chilean Evangelical communities.