Your world in brief: Big Macs and snake karma

Breakthrough in TB medication

Tuberculosis can be a difficult disease to treat, particularly when patients are diagnosed with drug-resistant forms of the disease. Only about 50% of drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) patients recover and the treatment can be debilitating. Now, scientists and researchers at the University of the Witwatersrand and the Clinical HIV Research Unit have led groundbreaking research improving the quality of treatment for patients. The improvements, announced by the World Health Organisation (WHO), include the reduction of treatment time from 18 to six months, an intake of 23 pills a week instead of 23 a day, elimination of painful side-effects and a survival rate of nine out of 10. The research, led by Dr Norbert Ndjeka, has altered international policy and has changed WHO guidelines for TB treatment. “The findings from this study will inform treatment programmes across the world, make treatment of the deadly scourge of TB more tolerable for patients, improve outcomes for patients and relieve pressure on health systems,” said Professor Shabir Mahdi, dean of the faculty of health sciences and professor of vaccinology at Wits University.

Snake karma kills snake charmer 

A snake charmer in Tanzania met his fate after being called for his services, which involved catching and killing venomous snakes. James Henry was called to a northeastern village where two cobras had been found. He successfully captured one cobra, but the other continued to lurk around the area. Once Henry was able to capture it, he played with the snake to impress onlookers. At this point he was attacked by the cobra, which bit him on his finger and mouth. Henry died while being treated with antivenom.

Black hole comes to light

South African scientists were among the 300 researchers from 80 institutes around the world who captured and studied the first image of a massive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way. The black hole, named Sagittarius A*, is the first image to confirm the presence of a black hole in that area and the second ever image of a black hole. The first image was captured in 2019 in the Messier 87 galaxy and is 55-million light years away from Earth. Sagittarius A* is 27 000 light years away. South African scientists Dr Iniyan Natarajan (University of the Witwatersrand) and Professor Roger Deane (University of Pretoria) contributed through precision measurements of the black hole’s ring size and by creating an ultramodern software suite to simulate realistic Event Horizon Telescope datasets. These efforts were central to comparing the observations with Einstein’s theory of general relativity. “We were stunned by how well the size of the ring agreed with predictions from Einstein’s theory of general relativity,” said a project scientist from the global team.“These unprecedented observations have greatly improved our understanding of what happens at the very centre of our galaxy and offer new insights on how these giant black holes interact with their surroundings.”

Diversity at Aussie fashion week

Although one can always count on the fashion industry to introduce groundbreaking new trends or churn out old ones, plus-size women and clothing fall short of being a constant at global fashion events. Just recently, however, Australia’s fashion week hosted the first-ever runway show exclusively displaying plus-size designs. The show presented 84 garments ranging from evening wear to swimwear. The event, in Sydney, was attended by 650 guests and featured 30 plus-size models. Although the “Big Four” fashion weeks have included curvier models in their shows, they are yet to create shows dedicated to plus-size fashion and their commitments to representation have often been short-lived. For Spring/Summer 2022, New York Fashion Week featured 48 plus-size models, a significant step down from the 68 that walked the runways in Spring 2020. Over in London, Hayley Hasselhoff, a model and daughter of David Hasselhoff, led a protest in 2018 outside the London Fashion Week hub calling for representation at the event. In Paris, Chanel featured its first plus-size model in nearly a decade during fashion week in 2020, while Versace featured its first three plus-sized models in 2020 for the first time. 

Eco-man emo for Earth

Eco-activist Howard Breen, of British Columbia, Canada’s westernmost province, has been haunted by environmental degradation all his life and has spent most of it warning others about climate change. He has taken part in extreme expressions of protest. He was once arrested for super-glueing himself to log booms, and also for trying to stop air traffic on tarmacs. Breen has been diagnosed with eco-anxiety and biosphere-related depression. “It becomes debilitating,” said Breen, who lives in Vancouver Island. “The depression that I’m feeling around the state of things, and my inability to not be apprehensive about the future of my children specifically, is a huge concern for me.” His application for assisted suicide was rejected in 2021. According to the American Psychology Association, eco-anxiety refers to “the chronic fear of environmental cataclysm that comes from observing the seemingly irrevocable impact of climate change and the associated concern for one’s future and that of next generations”. Symptoms include existential dread, fatalistic thinking and obsessive thoughts about climate.

France appoints woman leader

“Left-wing technocrat” Elisabeth Borne has become the first woman in 30 years to hold the position of prime minister of France. Borne, who previously served as an environment, transportation and labour minister under President Emmanuel Macron, is expected to form a new French government and lead in delivering retirement reform and addressing climate change. Although she is seen as an important figure in the president’s election promises to remodel France as a spearhead in tackling climate change at a global level, Borne is already facing criticism and pressure from politicians and environmentalists. Criticisms include dissatisfaction with limited action on climate during Macron’s first term in office and lay out a plan for France to waste fewer natural resources and less energy. Borne has been praised for being hardworking and has been called “a remarkable person, with great experience in the public and private sectors” by France’s first ever female prime minister, Édith Cresson (1991-92). “I want to dedicate my nomination to all little girls and tell them to go all the way pursuing your dreams,” said Borne in her inauguration speech.

Parents sue for grandchildren 

Here’s something to think about before letting your parents know you won’t be having any children. In India, a couple has expressed frustration with their childless son, 35, and his wife, 31, by filing a petition against them for 50-million Indian rupees (R10-million). The parents contend they have spent R4-million raising their son and contributing to his career as a pilot, and want a grandchild. Should this not happen within the next year, they expect compensation. They list feelings of envy and longing when looking at other grandparents in the neighbourhood. 

Class action over fast food advert 

New Yorker Justin Chimienti has been left deeply unsatisfied with burger sizes from fast food franchises McDonald’s and Wendy’s. The disparities between burgers depicted in advertisements and the actual burgers have clearly left a gaping hole in Chimenti’s tummy. He has proposed a class-action lawsuit against the companies, accusing them of unfair and deceptive trade practices. The lawsuit seeks R802-million in damages for those who have joined the suit. They are claiming financial damages caused to lower-income customers who are receiving less than what is advertised, particularly at a time when inflation is rising and food prices are high. The lawsuit states that the burgers in the advertisements are 15% larger than in reality. “It’s looking a little sad … not like the picture,” said an individual cited in the lawsuit about a Bourbon Bacon Cheeseburger from Wendy’s. — Compiled by Mamaputle Boikanyo

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