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Hello, this is the global news podcast from the BBC World Service with reports and analysis from across the world. The latest news, seven days a week. BBC World Service podcasts are supported by advertising.


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I'm Alex Ritson and at 14 hours GMT on Thursday, the 25th of March, these are our main stories. EU leaders are meeting to decide whether to introduce new controls on coronavirus vaccines, leaving the Block H and M and Nike face a backlash in China for acknowledging human rights concerns about cotton grown in the Schengen region.


The African elephant is now critically endangered, with its population in the wild falling by 86 percent over the past three decades.


Also in this podcast, the Olympic torch relay finally gets underway for Tokyo 2020.


And while many countries are eagerly trying to get their hands on more vaccines, there is also still a lot of disinformation. Some of it spread in a whole cocktail of conspiracy theories.


Now, you have so many more people online during covid under lockdown. And so what you see is all these people online converging and all these forums create an avenue for various ideologies to mingle and cross pollinate.


Leaders from the European Union are meeting by teleconference in an effort to rescue their covid-19 vaccine program.


The EU's plan to approve and roll out the Jab's as a bloc meant vaccinations got off to a delayed start and distribution has remained slow due to a shortage of supplies.


The EU has vaccinated just 14 percent of its population so far, while the British are vaccinated more than 40 percent of theirs.


The European Commission's executive vice president, Valdis Dombrovskis, has accused Britain of looking after itself just since the introduction of the export authorisation system.


Some 10 million doses can be exported from the EU to UK, and zero doses has been exported from UK to EU. So if we discuss reciprocity, solidarity and say global responsibility, so it's clear that we also need to look at those aspects of reciprocity and proportionality.


A proposal has been made to halt the export of vaccines made in the EU. But the vice president of the European Parliament, Nicola Bayer, has spurned the idea, urging leaders to adopt what she called fair distribution in a global manner.


UK did really well in the vaccination, so most of the people are vaccinated so far, but the numbers are rising and other regions of the world, not only in Europe, especially elsewhere in Europe. And so we have, I think, really to tackle this problem and give vaccination priority where the numbers show that it's most needed.


Nick Beak is our Brussels correspondent. He told us more about the EU talks. The indications are that there's not a unanimous feeling among the leaders of the 27 EU countries that they want to either endorse what the commission put forward yesterday, these these tighten proposals to stop more products leaving European soil. And that's because there are differences of opinion. If you look at the the Irish and the Belgians. On one hand, the Swedish, they're all saying that there is a risk that you descend into a vaccine war and that the very delicate supply chains, when it comes to vaccines and their component parts could be affected by much tighter controls.


On the other hand, powerful countries, including France and Italy, are saying, look at the the rates of inoculation on mainland Europe. They're very slow. Look at the rates of the infection. They are sadly rising once again and tougher action needs to be taken. So I think it's only later we'll get a sense of where the argument has gone and potentially what sort of agreement has been reached.


Just how dire is the vaccine situation in Europe now? It is really bad, to be blunt. If you look at the percentages, yes, there are variations between the EU member states, Malta, for example, the smallest country doing particularly well. But a lot of the countries are hovering around 10 percent. So really, they've got months and months to go before there's any sort of protection for the the general population. And of course, in the past week or so, we've seen rising levels of scepticism towards vaccines, in particular the AstraZeneca vaccine at the heart of this row, concerns that it may not be safe.


And even though the EU medicines regulator said that, yes, definitely that the benefits outweigh the risks when it comes to this vaccine. And more than 17 million people, both in the EU and the UK have taken it. We've seen people in mainland Europe saying they don't want it, they'd prefer another vaccine. And this rising level of skepticism and also, as a consequence, millions of doses of that job sitting on shelves, not being used.


Nick Bik, we hear a lot about China's mistreatment of its Muslim minority, less about measures taken in response to it.


Just days ago, some Western countries imposed sanctions on Chinese officials accused of responsibility for the abuses. But even those were criticized as feeble by comparison to the scale of the alleged abuse.


Some big companies, though, specifically Condemn and Nike, have been taking their own measures, and that seems to be why they're losing endorsements and being heavily criticised on Chinese social media. Our correspondent Robin Brant told me what's been happening.


Well, this almost certainly is a coordinated campaign. I mean, it's striking that these comments raising concerns about allegations of forced labour being used in the cotton fields of Xinjiang by HLM were made months ago. And yet within the last 24 hours, we've had one arm of the ruling Communist Party. We've had celebrity endorsers, we've had state media, we've had others online. And now some of the country's biggest online retail giants all jumping on the bandwagon, criticizing HLM, some of them calling for it to be kicked out of this country, others removing their services and removing their endorsements.


All in all, saying that. Chinese shoppers should not be patronizing HLM now because of the concerns it raised in relation to those allegations, the forced labor was being used to harvest some of the cotton in the fields of Xinjiang out west.


Well, Nike and H and B word, they have tremendous brand loyalty amongst younger people, don't they?


Yeah, I mean, Nike has been named. So has Unico, the Japanese retailer. Interestingly, I was at another Japanese store Muji. We bought a woman's cotton top there and actually on the label it says it's jinyang cotton. So they are sticking by if they're proud to advertise the fact they use cotton from there. But I mean this is serious. You know, China is important for China because it invests here has a key part of its supply chain here in terms of manufacturing.


It's also obviously one of the most important places where it sells its top throw, it sells its dresses in terms of market and potential market growth. So, look, this is concerning. The key thing is going to be how long this is sustained for. Is this a one, two, three day thing or are we actually going to see, as we're seeing in Xinjiang, HLM stores shut down across the country and frankly, people choosing to shop elsewhere?


I mean, for Nike, it's slightly different. They obviously are an American company, iconic as well. It's interesting that China seems to have gone for HLM. It's a retail giant, but it's Swedish. So its home base is in a country that's slightly less powerful and less influential.


Robin Brand, a major report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, has revealed that Africa's elephants are far more threatened than previously thought.


Our science correspondent Victoria Gill explains a combination of a deeper understanding of elephant biology. The demand for ivory and the ongoing destruction of the vast swathes of habitat they need have combined to reveal a previously underestimated threat to Africa's elephants. Now known to be two distinct species forest elephants and savanna elephants have been put into the critically endangered and endangered categories on the red list of threatened species. Conservationists say poaching is still a major driver of these declines. But the silent killer, as with so many threatened species, is habitat loss.


Making space for Earth's largest land animal across international borders will be key to stopping them from sliding even closer to extinction.


Victoria Gill, the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, has said it will return a benign bronze sculpture to Nigeria within weeks.


It's one of the first public institutions to do so more than a century after British forces looted the sculptures and auctioned them to Western museums and collectors is our West Africa correspondent Ben Hunt.


Momentum for the return of the famed Benin bronzes is growing. The university said the sculpture of a ruler of the kingdom of Benin had left Nigeria in an extremely immoral fashion and should be returned. On Wednesday, Germany's foreign minister said that the return of the 440 bronzes in its collection was a question of justice. Elsewhere in the UK, Cambridge University plans to return another bronze, while the Banin Dialogue Group set up to discuss the return of the hundreds of artefacts held by the British Museum, says discussions are ongoing in the 19th century.


A British military expedition attacked Benin City in Present-day, Nigeria, looting the royal palace of its treasures, which have become known as the Benin bronzes.


Ben Hunt. Still to come in this podcast, digital artworks that don't exist in any physical form but can be sold as unique pieces the virtual, the real, the imaginal and the literal.


This kind of spirit of creativity and technology working together gives me hope that we can solve anything.


So how much would you pay for a piece of virtual art created by Sofia the robot? Almost exactly a year to the day since it was postponed, the Tokyo Olympic torch relay has finally got underway. Over the next four months, the Olympic torch will make its way from the icy north of Japan to the subtropical islands in the far south before arriving at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium on July the 21st.


Our correspondent Rupert Wingfield Hayes was in Fukushima to watch the flame set off on its long journey to Tokyo.


I cannot think this is a moment many had predicted would not happen. How could Japan go ahead with an Olympics in the middle of a global pandemic?


I thought they must have lost it.


But this morning in Fukushima, Japan defied the naysayers and the Olympic flame began its slow parade towards Tokyo. So I'm now in the middle of Iwaki City, which is the first proper city that the flame is going through, and quite substantial numbers of people have turned out here today to watch the flame as it goes past. They're all being told to socially this and not to cheer, but to clap. So we'll have to see. The flame is coming down the road now.


Up until very recently, there has been pretty much overwhelming public opposition to holding the Olympics this year, judging by the number of people on the streets here today with the start of the torch relay, that may just be starting to change at the moment.


I'm going to be an Olympic volunteer, this student says. So I really want them to go ahead when the whole world is down because of the pandemic, I think the Olympics will cheer people up a lot better job than there.


Not everyone shares those sort of views. For much of today, the torch relay has passed through areas badly affected by the 2011 tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear disaster.


So the torch relay has now arrived in the little town of Futaba and this town was evacuated after the nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi 10 years ago. In fact, the nuclear plant is just a few kilometers away from here. And despite all of the razzmatazz surrounding the torch relay here today, if you go just 100 meters in either direction, you'll find that this town is still completely deserted.


And some of the people who come from this area are not hugely amused about the amount of money that's being spent on the Olympics when they still can't come home for the Masami.


Yoshizawa has driven his little farm truck down to the torch relay route to try and get his voice heard. He's prevented from getting too close by police cordon Yoshizawa son is a farmer who's herd of 150 cattle was badly contaminated in the nuclear accident.


Now they're not sure what's more important.


He says, we can't even save the lives of Japanese people. Why are we having the Olympics now? We don't even have a vaccine.


Thirty 39. In an attempt to placate public opinion and to prevent the Olympics from becoming a covid-19 super spreader event, Japan has now decided it will not allow any foreign spectators to come here this summer.


But will that be enough as the Olympic flame makes its slow way towards Tokyo? The authorities here know they have no hope of vaccinating Japan's population against covid-19 before the opening ceremony on July the 21st.


Rupert Wingfield Hayes and let's stick with sport for a little longer, football fans around the world cheered on their national teams last night in a big round of World Cup qualifying matches.


But the hype surrounding the 2022 tournament has been marred by long standing concerns about human rights in the host nation. Qatar and Norway, in their qualifier against Gibraltar, made their feelings known with a prematch act of protest.


Our sports news correspondent Alex Capstick has the details.


We knew that some sort of action was likely to be taken by the Norwegian players, the coach Del Sol back and had said that they intended to use the matches as an opportunity to express their reservations, concerns that thousands of migrant workers in Qatar have died while others have been badly treated. So at the pregame lineup, during the national anthems, they wore white T-shirts with the words human rights on and off the pitch written across them. There has been a debate in Norway amongst the top football clubs about the situation in Qatar.


Some of them have called for a boycott of the World Cup, but at the very least, there was encouragement for the national team to find a way of highlighting the issue, which is what we saw last night in Gibraltar.


And normally, football's rules prevent teams from making anything that could be perceived as a political statement.


Well, they do. I mean, this is the only example on the pitch so far, although it has been discussed elsewhere. A few days ago, before the Netherlands played Turkey, the Dutch coach, Frank Dabur, said it was right to question whether the team should go to Qatar if it qualifies. In Denmark, there is a petition calling for a boycott in Qatar has been under the spotlight ever since it shocked the world by winning the vote to stage the tournament.


The country's been a massive building site with the plight of migrant workers raised on numerous occasions. As to the Norwegian protester, FIFA was asked about this. I've been talking to them earlier today and they confirmed that Norway won't face disciplinary proceedings. An interesting two line statement in which the governing body said FIFA believes in the freedom of speech and in the power of football as a force for good. Now, in the past, FIFA has been accused of being a little bit heavy-handed when it comes to countries breaking with protocol.


But this would appear to open the door for other teams to stage similar protests should they wish to our sports news correspondent Alex Capstick.


So far, more than two point seven million people worldwide have died of covid.


Many people are keenly awaiting their first job. But there is also a lot of anti vaccine disinformation feeding into vaccine hesitancy on the part of some.


And those who monitor the spread of disinformation on the Internet have flagged up a new phenomenon anti vaccine attitudes coming together with conspiracy theories spread by the Kuhnen movement, for example, and also anti-Semitism and white supremacy. My colleague Rahul Tandon heard more from Erika Hallstein. She's with the online reporting platform, a story covering this information.


I sort of stumbled upon this, actually, while I was doing some reporting on anti lockdown movements in South America.


And it got me thinking about if this was common in other groups or of other extremist groups or anti vaccine groups were also integrating anti Semitism into their vaccine skepticism. And so I think it's sort of a two part answer why this is happening. One, it's certainly not new in the sense that anti-Semitism is a very old conspiracy theory and it's always been present in times of global and historic uncertainty. But now you have so many more people online during covid under lockdown.


And so what you see is all these people online converging and sort of all these forums create an avenue for various ideologies to mingle and cross pollinate.


If you can give us an idea of some of the areas that they're covering. Certainly. So there's a few sort of ways people are talking about the vaccine. One is just this notion that the vaccine was created to control the world and the global population, and that sort of falls into old school, anti-Semitic conspiracy around, you know, this cabal of elite globalists who are trying to control everyone's activity.


There is also a strain of neo-Nazi groups where they're talking about the vaccine being part of a plot to sterilize the white race or to kill people. There's also sort of a geopolitical aspect of this where some people may be talking about the vaccine and the coronavirus being a bioweapon from Israel. And then there's a lot of chatter around Bill Gates, who is a long time vaccine advocate, and people believing that he's secretly Jewish. And there's an element of him desiring to control the world through that as well.


You mentioned at the beginning that you stumbled across this in South America. What's the geographical spread you're finding? We've had the British government look into it as well. Yes, absolutely.


It really is important to recognize that this is a global phenomenon. In Switzerland, there were some reports showing that anti vaccine conspiracy's were being propagated online in Argentina. I stumbled into a telegram channel with twenty five thousand subscribers that really posted a lot of very explicit anti-Semitic content around the vaccine and the coronavirus. You know, sometimes this manifests offline right in person. So there have been anti lock down protests. And in Germany, in the Czech Republic, anti vaccine protesters have actually taken to donning the yellow star of David, which Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust and wearing them at protests where unvaccinated written on them.


And there was the UK report that looked at specifically this intersection and looked at about two dozen anti vaccine networks on Facebook and Twitter and found that 79 percent of those contained anti-Semitic comments.


What can be done to tackle this problem? Because sometimes going head on against these sort of views, which needs to be done, actually can create even more problems.


There's definitely people I talk to who would say social media platforms need to do a better job of moderating their content, of cracking down on vaccine misinformation. I don't know, you know, what where this will go. It is really, really diffuse and complicated. I don't think there is any single answer that can solve this problem, unfortunately.


Erica Hellerstein from Chota Story. The art world is being shaken up by a new format that's become as prestigious as it is pricey, non-refundable tokens, digital works that don't exist in any physical form but can be sold as unique pieces. Earlier this month, a digital collage by the artist people was sold for nearly 70 million dollars.


And now Sofia, a remarkably lifelike humanoid robot, has auctioned off a work that she or should that be it created herself.


The world's second video shows Sofia collaborating on a digital painting with the Italian artist Andrea Bonnar.


Chatto reporter Mark LaBelle has been following the story and found out what Sophia's creator, David Hanson, has to say about the sale.


Is there no end to Sophia's artificial intelligence described as a masterpiece herself? She's now created one.


Here is the evolution of Sophia from emerging as an artwork herself, generating artwork that then was later inspired by Andrea Tantaros artwork through many iterations of art that then fueled more art, resulting in this purely digital work.


Got that good for Sofia.


It's been emotional, the virtual, the real, the imaginal and the literal. This kind of spirit of creativity and technology working together gives me hope that we can solve anything.


After quite a bidding war, it went for a sweet 688 thousand eight hundred and eighty eight dollars.


Oh wow. Making her the first ever robot to auction its own digital artwork.


It's perhaps not your standard piece of art packed with swirls, blurs and muddled bits and pieces, but its true value is perhaps mostly down to the novelty and innovation of its creator, who has now firmly put the A.I. into artistic.


Mark LaBelle with that report.


And that's all from us for now. But there'll be an updated version of the Global News podcast later.


If you want to comment on this podcast or the topics covered in it, you can send us an email address, his global podcast at BBC Dot Seo Dot UK. I'm Alex Ritson. The producer was Farhana toward the studio manager, Holly Palmer, and the editor Karen Martin. Until next time. Goodbye. Baby, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. Trending is the podcast that investigates the dark corners of the Internet and social media, and in our brand new series, we're exploring a mystery.


Scientists say that the key thing that will get us out of this global pandemic is a vaccine. So if that's the case, why has hard line anti vaccine content exploded online in the last year? We'll be delving into stories about this wave of propaganda and what it means for all around the world from the biggest influencers in the shadow world of ActiveX, to the people who are devoting their lives to making sure the science wins out. That's BBC trending search for BBC trending wherever you get your podcasts from.