Features

Trans soldiers protected by SA constitution

LORINDA MARRIAN

On 27 July President Trump announced that transgender people will no longer be allowed to serve in the US military. If the ban were to become official, the United States would fall out of the small circle of countries that allows transgender individuals to serve. To date, countries such as Canada, Australia, Israel, Thailand (in administrative positions) and South Africa protect full LGBTQIA+ rights in the military.

Col Kirstein of the South African Defence Force (SANDF) says that the Defence Force “is subservient to the Constitution of South Africa and therefore does not discriminate against people in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, cultural, language, [and] sexual orientation”. This is further entrenched in the Defence Act of 2002 which says that any member of the Defence Force or employee of the Department who discriminates against a person based on their sexual orientation is guilty of an offence and could, if found guilty, be imprisoned for a maximum of five years.

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South Africas first clinical cannabis convention

SAVANNAH PLASKITT

On 5 August, registered nonprofit organisation Fields of Green for All held South Africa’s first Clinical Cannabis Convention. The hope was to de-stigmatise the use of cannabis and educate medical professionals whose patients may already be using the plant. This conference built on the momentum gained by the ongoing case, dubbed the ‘Trial of the Plant’, that is fighting to re-legalise cannabis in South Africa. Many of the speakers at the event are also expert witnesses in the trial.

In 1993 The South African Drugs and Drugs Trafficking Act No.140 listed cannabis under “Undesirable Dependence- Producing Substances” and made any part of the plant illegal. Julian Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke, known as ‘The Dagga Couple’ have taken seven government ministers to the Pretoria High Court in an effort to disprove that cannabis is an ‘undesirable’ substance. They have divided their arguments into four platforms: responsible adult use of cannabis; use of cannabis for health; use of cannabis in industry; and traditional, religious and cultural uses of cannabis.

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Gone-orrhoea? A new vaccine for gonorrhoea

KATHERINE ATKINSON

A vaccine for gonorrhoea, which is a sexually transmitted infection (STI), may be accessible in the near-future. Vaccines are responsible for prevention and sometimes even eradication of infectious diseases. On 10 July, an academic journal, The Lancet, released a paper which indicates that a vaccine for gonorrhoea may be a future possibility.

Professor Remco Peters, a medical microbiologist at the University of Pretoria, a clinical programme specialist at Anova Health Institute and an expert in the field of STIs, explains th at vaccines work by “giving [someone] a little bit of the bacteria or virus that you are trying to protect [against]”. This bacteria or virus can either be “a small attenuated piece” or “a synthetically derived component”. This helps the body build an immune response as the disease becomes recognisable.

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Tesla leading the way to sustainability

SAM MUKWAMU

Global carbon dioxide emissions from motor vehicles have been a major contributor to climate change over recent decades, prompting a need to move to cleaner sources of energy to power vehicles.

Tesla has been one of the companies that has dedicated itself to moving towards electric powered vehicles. In 2014, Tesla announced their plans to construct a “Gigafactory” to produce the lithium-ion batteries required to power their proposed annual production of 500 000 cars. Tesla’s goal is to prompt the rest of the world to change to electric powered vehicles through the production of enough cars. By January of this year, Gigafactory 1 in Nevada, was about a third complete, and commenced with the production of their lithium-ion battery cells that are to be used in Tesla’s energy storage products and Model 3 cars. According to Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, the Gigafactory, which is predicted to be finished in 2020, will be able to produce more lithium-ion batteries in one year “than were produced worldwide in 2013”. The Gigafactory, which is being constructed with the help of a $1.6 billion investment from Panasonic Corp, “will also be powered by renewable energy sources, with the goal of achieving net zero energy”, claims Tesla. By the end of the year, Elon Musk is expected to announce plans for Tesla to build more Gigafactories outside of the USA, which won’t just be building battery cells but also full vehicles.

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Technology for good: assistive technology and its benefits

GEMMA GATTICCHI

Technological advancements have become an essential part of the disabled community’s way of life. These improvements are far-reaching and include increasing mobility, inclusivity and general ease of life.

According to a community survey released by Statistics South Africa, the South African national disability prevalence was 7.7% in 2016. This includes over one and a half million people who experience some difficulty in hearing. Professor Swanepoel from UP’s Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, is part of the development of the ‘hearScope’ – a smartphone otoscope used for the diagnosis of ear disease. According to the HearX website, this development strives towards low-cost automated smartphone and cloud-based otitis media diagnosis. It is this kind of technology that could result in early intervention and help treat the onset of hearing problems in the future.

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