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Russian Actress Heads to International Space Station to Shoot First Film in Space

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MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Russian actress Yulia Peresild, 36, has been selected to star in the first movie to be filmed on the International Space Station (ISS), state space agency Roscosmos announced on Thursday.

In November 2020, the Russian space agency and the national Channel One broadcaster launched an open competition for participation in the first feature film in space known by the working title “Challenge.” In March, the competition shortlisted 20 finalists, who were subjected to pass medical review.

“As a result of medical and creative selection, the State Commission recommended nominating Yulia Peresild and Klim Shipenko as the prime crew and Alyona Mordovina and Alexey Dudin as the backup crew. The filming will take place at the International Space Station,” the agency said in a statement.

The expedition is scheduled to launch on October 5 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, located in southern Kazakhstan, when the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft will fly the crew to the ISS.

Starting June 1, all the candidates will undergo special training, including “centrifuge tests, vibration stand tests … flights on a zero-gravity plane,” as well as parachute training.

“All this [training] will be covered by Channel One,” the agency specified.

“We are proud that Roscosmos invited us to do this, and we will not let our colleagues down,” Konstantin Ernst, General Director of Channel One, said.

Roscosmos also added that Russian pilot Galina Kairova, 26, who also applied for the role in a film but was not selected, “was invited to continue the selection process for the cosmonaut corps on a professional basis.”

The plot of the film will revolve around a young female surgeon flying to the ISS, who will have to perform an operation on a sick cosmonaut whose medical condition does not allow him to return to Earth, a source told Sputnik.

The movie is a part of a massive educational and scientific project, which also aims to film some documentaries about specialists manufacturing rockets and other space vehicles, as well as rocket and space industries companies, according to Roscosmos.



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Covid limits migration despite more people displaced by war and disasters | Global development

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The coronavirus pandemic had a radical effect on migration, limiting movement despite increasing levels of internal displacement from conflict and climate disasters, the UN’s International Organization for Migration said in a report on Wednesday.

Though the number of people who migrated internationally increased to 281 million in 2020 – 9 million more than before Covid-19 – the number was 2 million lower than expected without a pandemic, according to the report.

“We are witnessing a paradox not seen before in human history,” said IOM director general, António Vitorino. “While billions of people have been effectively grounded by Covid-19, tens of millions of others have been displaced within their own countries.”

Internal displacement caused by violence, conflict and disasters increased to 40.5 million from 31.5 million. Globally, the IOM said governments implemented a total of 108,000 restrictions on international travel, alongside internal restrictions on movement, disrupting migration during the pandemic.

Prior to the report’s release, Vitorino told IOM member states on Monday that international cooperation was needed to ensure people were not stripped of the option of migrating when they needed to.

He also pointed out that people from countries with low levels of vaccination could be excluded from emigrating. “We must acknowledge the deep impacts the Covid-19 pandemic has had for people on the move: people stranded in transit, families separated across borders, migrants left unemployed but unable to afford the return home,” said Vitorino.

“The resulting complex patchwork of measures, frequently changing in scope and application, has placed a chilling effect on cross-border mobility, particularly for those unvaccinated.”

The report said conditions were particularly harsh for people from developing countries working in the Middle East and south-east Asia, with the pandemic affecting their incomes and housing, while they were also often excluded from access to healthcare and welfare.

However, the feared 20% drop in remittances – which can be a key lifeline to poor families during crises – that was predicted by the World Bank in April 2020 did not materialise and had been much lower, at 2.4%. This might be partly related to people being forced to send money to their families through formal routes, the report suggested, because options such as carrying cash were blocked off, as well as many working in jobs on the frontline of the pandemic that continued despite lockdowns.

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Poland curtails media access to Belarus border

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Poland’s president on Tuesday (30 November) signed into law legislation that will limit the access of aid charities and journalists to its border with Belarus as the country grapples with a simmering migrant crisis, Reuters reports. The law is a blow to the opposition parties that advocated for unlimited media access, an amendment approved by the upper house of parliament on Friday but rejected by the lower house.

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Even after 40 years the response to Aids in many countries is still held back by stigma | Hakima Himmich and Mike Podmore

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Forty years after the first cases of Aids were discovered, goals for its global elimination have yet to be achieved. In 2020, nearly 700,000 people died of Aids-related illnesses and 1.5 million people were newly infected with HIV.

This is despite scientific and medical advances in the testing, treatment and care of people living with HIV.

Part of the reason is something that those affected by HIV know all too well: discrimination. The history of the response to this virus has long been hampered by stigma and it continues to disproportionately affect key groups – men who have sex with men; sex workers; transgender people; people who inject drugs and prisoners. According to UNAIDS, the United Nations programme on Aids/HIV, these communities account for 93% of new HIV infections outside sub-Saharan Africa.

Social, state and symbolic discrimination and violence play a huge role in preventing people in these groups from accessing care and prevention services. It is difficult to protect yourself from HIV when, in some countries, having prevention tools in your pocket – whether it be sterile syringes or condoms – can lead to arrest.

It’s hard to talk to your doctor about sexual safety or access antiretroviral treatment when homophobia permeates your society. Discrimination is directly related to stigma and they are mutually reinforcing, acting as catalysts for transmission.

Punitive laws that infringe human rights also continue to hold back progress.

The criminalisation of certain behaviours and jobs – such as drug use, non-disclosure of HIV status, and sex work – infringes on the rights and freedoms of key populations and their ability to access justice and health services. Often, this is a result of prejudice among law enforcement.

Russia is one example of how pushing back on human rights, freedoms and personal autonomy also holds back the fight against HIV and Aids. In June, at the last UN high-level meeting on HIV and Aids, Russia submitted amendments to the final declaration to delete any reference to human rights, decriminalising sex work or harm reduction related to injecting drugs, claiming it was an affront to family values.

How can we not make the connection between these views and the worrying progression of the HIV epidemic in Russia? Russian government estimates suggest that new HIV infections increased annually by 10% to 15% a year between 2006 and 2015. It is a trajectory leading to enormous prevalence rates in key populations (including its estimated 1.8 million injection-drug users) and a general population prevalence of more than 1%. As in other countries where homosexuality is subject to social repression, there is reason to believe that these estimates are very conservative because the impact of homophobia reduces estimates of certain population sizes and incidence.

Alongside eliminating stigma, discrimination and criminalisation, nations need to consider how funding is directed. According to the Dutch organisation Aidsfonds, programmes targeting key, most at-risk groups in low- and middle-income countries receive only 2% of HIV funding.

Yet marginalised people have long proven their ability to implement innovative solutions to protect fellow human beings in the face of epidemics, whether it be Aids or Covid-19. Community-led responses that respect human rights in the local context are highly effective. Peer testing, for example, is extremely effective in reaching those furthest from the health system.

Cheick Hamala Sidibé, human rights officer at Arcad Santé Plus, has said that community-led initiatives during the Covid-19 pandemic by health workers in Mali – meeting people at home to offer HIV testing, distribute prevention kits and provide antiretroviral treatment – have pushed the government to improve its policy.

In Morocco, a third of those testing positive for HIV in 2019 were screened by community health workers from ACLS – a member of Coalition Plus, an international network to fight Aids and hepatitis – even though it uses only 10% of the kits available nationwide. In Ecuador, out of 40,000 tests, Kimirina, another Coalition Plus member, detected 900 HIV-positive people – nearly six times higher than the rate achieved by the public health system.

The new Global Fund strategy to fight Aids, TB and malaria places communities front and centre of the fight. Building on the fund’s proven impact, it’s vital that governments step up contributions next year in order to accelerate community-led responses.

Communities have always been best on the frontlines and sustainable funding of interventions designed and implemented by and for key population groups will go a long way to bringing the global HIV response on track.

Underpinning this must be a steadfast commitment to human rights; exerting political pressure to repeal punitive laws and enforcing laws to protect people from violence. Through this, we can, after 40 years, overcome discrimination and end Aids.

Hakima Himmich is the founder of ALCS in Morocco and has chaired the international network Coalition Plus since 2012.

Mike Podmore is director of StopAids, a UK-based network of 70 organisations, and a steering committee member at Action for Global Health UK and Global Fund Advocates Network.

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