Feeling like it’s a case of new year, same feeling of existential dread? You’re far from alone, particularly given the latest lockdown announcements.

 

But while staying on top of the headlines might still feel like a thankless task in early 2021, amidst the doom and gloom there remain some brilliant nuggets of joy and optimism – and every Tuesday, we’ll endeavour to find them.

 

So, without further ado, here are the stories giving us fresh hope this week…

 

Argentinian senate approves legalisation of abortion

Image: Reuters

 

Women in Argentina will be able to access abortion up to the 14th week of pregnancy, under groundbreaking new legislation approved last week by the country’s senate.

 

The legalisation was approved by majority in late December, leading to celebrations on the streets of the staunchly Catholic country.

 

Until now, abortions were legal only in cases of rape or when the mother’s life was at risk, leading to the annual hospitalisation of around 38,000 women following clandestine attempts at termination.

 

Pro-choice activists now hope the decision in Argentina – one of the largest and most influential nations in South America – will lead other countries on the continent to follow suit.

 

Philippines to raise age of consent from 12 to 16

Image: Hannah Reyes Morales for NPR

 

The Philippines looks set to approve a bill that will raise the age of sexual consent to 16.

 

Until now, the country has had one of the lowest ages of consent in the world, allowing adults to have sex with children as young as 12 if they agree.

 

Activists have long campaigned for change in the Philippines, where both divorce and abortion remain illegal and more than 500 teenagers give birth each day.

 

The country has also become a global hotspot for online child sex abuse, leading UNICEF to describe the bill now before congress as “a victory for Filipino children”.

 

Breakthrough drug could reverse mental decline

Image: Cristina Gottardi/Unsplash

 

Scientists in San Francisco have reported positive trials of a drug aimed at reversing age-related decline in memory and cognitive function.

 

The drug, called ISRIB, has already been shown to restore memory function after traumatic brain injury in laboratory experiments.

 

It’s also hoped it could be used to treat cognitive impairments related to conditions as diverse as Down Syndrome, noise-related hearing loss and prostate cancer.

 

Now, the award-winning team behind the trials say the results suggest age-related memory loss could be reversible, rather than permanent.

 

VW unveils mobile car charging robot

Image: VW Group

 

Volkswagen has unveiled a new prototype charging robot which it hopes could make electric vehicle ownership far easier and more flexible for motorists in future.

 

Created as a cost-effective way to improve charging facilities in existing carparks, the ‘battery butler’ is able to plug in and remove chargers from vehicles in need of power.

 

Using chargers from one central charging station, the robot is able to service several cars at once without any need for human intervention.

 

VW says it now hopes to take the prototype into further development, working on a car-to-robot communication system that would allow the process to function in the field.

 

Ikea opens first second-hand store

Image: Ikea

 

Swedish furniture giant Ikea has opened a pilot second-hand store, as part of efforts to improve circularity and reach its 2030 climate targets.

 

The branch in Stockholm offers furniture, collected from municipal recycling centres and repaired or restored, at below buy-new prices.

 

The company has also begun offering a buy-back scheme, allowing customers to return worn furniture in exchange for vouchers.

 

It’s part of a target for the firm to become fully circular, using only renewable or recycled materials and helping customers prolong use of products, by the end of this decade.

 

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