Your world in brief: Zoo wars and costly clapbacks

Better latte than never

Two to three cups a day or 300mg of caffeine is the new limit for appropriate consumption of coffee for pregnant women, according to scientists from the University of Queensland in Australia. For many years, and as recently as 2020, medical professionals have discouraged the consumption of coffee by pregnant women, saying that it could lead to behavioural problems for children or, even worse, result in stillbirths, miscarriages or premature births. After using genetics to analyse coffee-drinking behaviour, researchers from the University of Queensland found evidence that limited coffee consumption did not increase the probability of miscarriages, stillbirths or premature births. “When it comes to diet during pregnancy, women are often advised to cut things out but this study shows they can still enjoy coffee without worrying about increasing the risk of these pregnancy outcomes,” said one of the authors of the study. As a disclaimer, the study states that it only focused on the effect of coffee on specific birth outcomes and didn’t look at its effects on other aspects of foetal development. “For that reason, we don’t recommend a high intake during pregnancy but a low or moderate consumption of coffee,” another author said.

The zoo wars

A nail-biting clip of a dog stuck in a gorilla enclosure at California’s San Diego Zoo has been making the rounds on social media. It is the latest among a series of frightening clips circulating online from zoos around the world. According to local news reports, two stray dogs were loose inside the zoo. When one somehow found itself in an enclosure with several gorillas, visitors tried to lure the dog away from danger as the gorillas chased it. The tension between them lasted for two minutes until the dog escaped. It has been sent to a dog rescue shelter. In Indonesia, a teenager at the Kasang Kulim Zoo was reportedly trying to make social media content by taunting a caged orangutan. In a clip, the primate can be seen yanking the teenager by the foot and attempting to bite him. In a more tragic incident, a man at a Jamaican zoo had his finger bitten off by a caged lion he was provoking. 

Making Afro-Colombian history

Voters in Colombia will make history this Sunday when they cast their votes in an election that will see the country’s first black woman become vice-president. Both potential presidents, leftist and former guerrilla Gustavo Petro and millionaire businessman Rodolfo Hernandez have named Afro-Colombian women as their running mates. Francia Márquez, Petro’s running mate, is a lawyer, human rights activist and environmentalist who began her work in activism when she was a teenager. She studied law while working as a domestic worker and launched her preliminary candidacy for presidency in 2021. Marelen Castillo, a conservative industrial engineer and biology graduate, who was a teacher, sent her CV to Hernandez after he advertised that he was looking for an

“Afro-descendent woman” to run beside him. One of them will replace Vice-President Marta Lucía Ramirez, the first woman to take the position.

Costly clapbacks

Japan has upped the ante on cyberbullying after parliament passed a bill that intensified penalties for “online insults”. The amendment states that convicted offenders of online insults can spend up to a year in prison or pay a fine of up to 300 000 yen (R36 000). Some believe the law is necessary to address online bullying while others claim it could impede free speech. Insults, under Japan’s penal code, are defined as publicly demeaning someone’s social standing without referring to specific facts about them or a specific action. “There needs to be a guideline that makes a distinction on what qualifies as an insult,” said Seiho Cho, a Japanese lawyer. “For example, at the moment, even if someone calls the leader of Japan an idiot, then maybe under the revised law that could be classed as an insult.” The new legislation comes after the suicide of the 22-year-old Netflix star and wrestler, Hana Kimura, which incited discussion and public concern over cyberbullying.

Court convicts Zimbabwe journalist

A Zimbabwean court found The New York Times freelancer, Jeffrey Moyo, guilty of providing fake credentials to two foreign journalists from the same news publication. He was arrested in May last year before being released on bail after three weeks. The two foreign journalists were deported. On Tuesday, a Bulawayo magistrate convicted Moyo and gave him a two-year sentence along with a Z$200 000 (about R9 000) fine. With the country’s history of harassing and prosecuting journalists, media freedom advocates are showing disdain for the ruling. “Today’s conviction of journalist Jeffrey Moyo is a monumental travesty of justice and shows how far press freedom has deteriorated in Zimbabwe under President Emmerson Mnangagwa,” Angela Quintal, the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Africa programme coodinator, said in a statement.

Germany relaxes marijuana laws

The German government is moving forward with legalising cannabis for recreational purposes. On Monday, its health ministry announced that it was gathering more than 200 professionals from different fields, including medical and legal, to start hearings on the matter. The ministry said the goal would be to ensure the safety of young people. It also said there would be an examination of the new legislation after four years. Burkhard Blienert, a commissioner on narcotic drugs at the ministry of health, said in a statement: “Like many others, I have worked for years toward us in Germany finally ending the criminalisation of cannabis consumers and beginning a modern and health-oriented cannabis policy.” The legalisation of marijuana as a recreational drug is one of multiple reforms sketched out by Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s three-party coalition government, which came into power in December. The progressive government is also intent on removing the ban on doctors “advertising” services for abortion, making it easier to obtain German citizenship and doing away with legislation that requires psychological assessments for transgender people before transitioning.

Celebrating the humble chicken

History tells us that cats were once worshipped, but a new study from the University of Exeter reveals that chickens were also once revered. Chickens were considered quasi deities by Iron Age Europeans. “Eating chickens is so common that people think we have never not eaten them. Our evidence shows that our past relationship with chickens was far more complex, and that for centuries chickens were celebrated and venerated,” said a co-author of the study. Evidence of this is sourced from historical records and from chicken remains from more than 600 sites in 89 countries, including Morocco, Greece, South America and the United Kingdom (at Stonehenge and the Orkney Islands). The birds were buried either alone or with people, according to the study. The domestication of birds was catapulted by the introduction of dry rice farming, which led their wild ancestor, the red jungle fowl, down from the trees and closer to people.

Tanzania taxes tech giants

Tanzania’s finance minister is introducing a digital tax that will target tech giants such as Google and Facebook. While presenting the national budget on Tuesday, Finance Minister Mwigulu Nchemba announced a 2% tax for such companies and stated that it will come into effect in July. “Tanzania Revenue Authority shall establish a simplified registration process to accommodate digital economy operators who have no presence in Tanzania,” said Nchemba. “This measure is intended to keep pace with rapid growth in the digital economy.” The tax still needs to go through an approval process by Tanzania’s parliament.

Poetic justice

On Monday, a judge in Oregon in the United States sentenced Nancy Crampton-Brophy, a 71-year-old romance writer who wrote an essay titled “How to Murder Your Husband”, to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years. Crampton-Brophy shot her husband with a 9mm Glock at a culinary institute where he worked as a chef and teacher. She was found guilty of second-degree murder after a seven-week trial. Crampton-Brophy seemed to have mimicked her own fiction when she murdered her husband by trying to assemble an untraceable weapon to commit the murder. Despite the verdict, Crampton-Brophy continues to maintain her innocence and claims that the weapons she bought were for research.

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