Columbia University’s psychiatry department head has been suspended after he tweeted a photo of a dark-skinned model and commented on her skin color, referring to her as a “freak of nature.”

Jeffrey Lieberman shared the tweet about model Nyakim Gatwech, who is of South Sudanese descent, writing: “Whether a work of art or freak of nature she’s a beautiful sight to behold.”

He was suspended Wednesday as psychiatry department chair at Columbia’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and also removed as psychiatrist-in-chief at Columbia University Irving Medical Center/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, according to an email sent to Columbia faculty and staff that was shared with NBC News.

His tweet, which was later deleted, quickly received backlash, with some Twitter users demanding he be removed from his position.

Gatwech slammed his comments as “straight up racism” to NBC New York.

“Coming from somebody with so much power, that was so disappointing,” she said.

She shared the tweet on her Instagram to set the record straight.

Lieberman’s comment was a retweet of a post claiming Gatwech set a Guinness World Records title for having the darkest skin. She clarified that the claim was untrue.

“My manager first brought it to my attention in 2020 and although we’ve denied it to multiple fact-checkers, clearly it’s still floating around even after @guinnessworldrecords stated that it does NOT monitor skin tones. I can’t imagine it’s even possible to know who’s the lightest or darkest person on the planet!” she wrote.

“I love my dark skin and my nickname ‘Queen of Dark,’ but I’ve never said I’m the darkest person on earth,” she said.

Lieberman apologized to his colleagues in an email Tuesday, calling his tweet “racist and sexist” and saying he was “deeply ashamed.” A Columbia spokesperson shared the email with NBC News.

“An apology from me to the Black community, to women, and to all of you is not enough,” the email said. “I’ve hurt many, and I am beginning to understand the work ahead to make needed personal changes and over time regain your trust.”

Lieberman’s Twitter account was no longer up as of Thursday morning.

Lieberman did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment early Thursday.



Habitat loss, pesticides and climate change are threatening insect populations worldwide. In 2019, Biological Conservation reported that 40% of all insects species are declining globally and that a third of them are endangered.

And while it may sound nice to live in a world with fewer roaches, environmental writer Oliver Milman says that human beings would be in big trouble without insects. That’s because insects play critical roles in pollinating plants we eat, breaking down waste in forest soil and forming the base of a food chain that other, larger animals — including humans — rely upon.

“It would be an extremely dire place to live in — and certainly not something we should ever aim for,” Milman says of an insect-free existence. “You would certainly have mass starvation [and] societal unrest ….. It’d be a place where there would be rotting feces and corpses everywhere because dung beetles and other insects that break down those materials would be gone.”

Milman charts the troubling decline of insects in his new book, The Insect Crisis: The Fall of the Tiny Empires That Run the World. He says that while it’s impossible to know exactly what’s happening with every insect species in the world, the overall trends are not good: The monarch butterfly population in North America has plummeted in the past 40 years, for instance, and a U.N. assessment done in 2019 found that half a million insect species are under threat of extinction, some in the coming decades.

“The world, our surroundings, would be far quieter, far duller, far drabber without insects,” he says. “When you start kind of digging down into these figures looking at the research, it’s clear that there’s something seriously amiss. … There is a consistent decline in most insect populations, and that spells major trouble for them but also for us.”

On what the loss of pollinators means

You’ve got some places in China where the loss of insects is so great that armies of people have been told to … fan out and go through orchards with … paint brushes and feathers on sticks to pollinate crops by hand — a hugely … labor intensive operation that obviously isn’t really sustainable long-term. We need the insects around to do these jobs as they’ve done them for millions of years.

So there is this growing … rumble of concern about food insecurity, especially when you think about what’s happening with the overall trends. I mean, the world’s population is growing. There’s been a … 300% increase in the volume of agricultural production dependent on animal pollination in the last 50 years. So we’re losing pollinators at a time when we’re demanding more and more pollination. We have more mouths to feed. We need more farmland. We need more intensively farmed farmland. At this kind of crucial moment, we’re losing the pollinators that do that for us.

On the variety of insects that serve as pollinators

Bees get a lot of the focus and the attention when it comes to pollination, but there’s a whole array of insects that provide that pollination service. In fact, three-quarters of the world’s flowering plants and about a third of the world’s food crops depend on pollinators at some stage. And so it’s not just bees …. Flies are huge pollinators. That includes the midges that pollinate the cocoa crop that chocolate comes from. And there are wasps as well. Wasps are major pollinators. Again, another insect that’s widely disliked but actually crucial for our environment.

Without these creatures, we would be without apples, cranberries, melons, almonds, broccoli, blueberries, cherries, I mean, the list goes on and on. We’d even be without ice cream, because alfalfa … that is fed to cows … is [pollinated by insects]. So we’d be without many of the kind of staples of our lives, many of the luxuries of our lives. Curries would become a historical dish, because cardamom would not be there, cumin would not be there. Many spices — many of the things that make our diets kind of colorful, interesting and nutritious — would be stripped from our lives without insects. That’s a really important thing to think about when we’re thinking about pollinator declines because many of the world’s poor rely upon agriculture that’s directly pollinated in their immediate surroundings, and without that, all of the nutrition is stripped from their diets. Malnutrition rates start to climb. …The U.N. has warned that this is going to become a food security issue, something that the world needs to focus on quite acutely.

On the importance of the insects at the base of the food chain

Once you kind of yank insects out of the base of the food chain, everything kind of starts toppling away from above them, really. They’re crucial in terms of just the basic foundations of forests and grassland ecosystems. We think about the placement of soil as a cycling of nitrogen through the soils that ensures that plants grow.

We may hate mosquitoes, but they provide a huge amount of food to frogs and then also birds. Once you start climbing up the food chain, you start affecting things that we really do value. So, as well as these declines that have been documented in insects, bird numbers have been reported to be down in several countries, and the birds that eat insects are faring far worse than the birds that are omnivorous, such as crows, for example. They provide a really important base to the food pyramid, and they provide a really crucial part of our overall environment.

On some extraordinary things that insects can do

I’m a very big fan of the caterpillars that can generate their own antifreeze to ward off the cold. That seems like an incredible ability to me. There’s the water beetle that, once it’s eaten by a frog, can actually escape from the frogs’ rear end, to actually escape being eaten by the frog. Even insects that we revile are extremely impressive when you think about them objectively. Cockroaches can last two weeks after being beheaded. They can run at incredible speeds. They can survive huge amounts of poison and radiation, even.

Bees themselves are just incredible creatures just in terms of their logistical work, their ability to organize socially. Honeybees can understand the concept of zero and can add and subtract numbers. You have bumblebees that researchers have found can play soccer. They can learn to play soccer with food rewards, and there are bees that can detect landmines as well. There’s all kinds of incredible things that they can do with their minds, for such small creatures. And so the more you learn about, I think, the more you’re enamored with them and the warmer you feel by insects, the more you discover how incredible they really are.

On insect habitat loss

When we think about habitat loss, we think about the idea of the Amazon rainforest being burned down or chopped down. But a lot of the habitat loss is far more mundane. It’s the conversion of a barren piece of land or seemingly barren piece of land into a Starbucks. It’s the conversion of a field where wildflowers will grow into a field of soy or corn or another single crop. It’s largely driven by agriculture. Some of it is also driven by urban sprawl. These are the laying down of highways, heavy industry and so on. So it’s obviously a model that’s exploded in Europe and North America, and that model is being transported elsewhere. You’re seeing other countries adopt this method of farming large fields of single crops, dousing them with insecticides and other chemicals in order to boost their yields. So a lot of what we consider unproductive grounds, messy land, the kind of stuff the place is filled with wildflowers, with scrub, with kind of brambles and weeds, we call them weeds when they’re in fact actually really important food providers for insects.



Rapper Riky Rick, real name Rikhado Makhado, has died. He was 34 years old.

The rapper’s family confirmed he died early on Wednesday. In a statement sent to TshisaLIVE, they asked for privacy and prayers.

“The family of South African artist Riky Rick with profound sadness this afternoon confirmed his untimely passing. Son, husband, father, brother and uncle, Riky ‘Ricky’ Makhado (34) sadly passed away in the early hours of this morning (February 23) in Johannesburg.”

Riky Rick burst into mainstream fame with his platinum certified Family Values in 2015 after making a name for himself and asserting his influence in SA hip-hop culture for several years behind the scenes.

He gifted the world with hit songs including Amantombazane, Boss Zonke and Sidlukotini.

The rapper’s brand became synonymous with fashion because of his style and love for fine clothes and culture. He became an icon for all the cool kids and a light for upcoming artists who he embraced publicly.

One of his greatest achievements, in addition to his music legacy, is the establishment of Cotton Festival, which was due to make a comeback in 2022 after taking a break thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In 2020, the rapper opened up about his struggle with depression after his father died.

The star, who took a break from live performances a few years ago to deal with depression, told listeners of his podcast series LAB LIVE that he suffered from “chronic depression” and was on a “destructive path” after losing his dad.

“I lost my father at a time when I needed the help. I lost him at a time when I needed that voice. A lot of people don’t understand that you can never replace the voice of a father. It wasn’t like he just died, it was like 18 years, living with your dad for a year, and then going back to your mom. I love being with my mom but living with him for a year. A child is never meant to live without his parents.”

Riky Rick is survived by his wife Bianca Naidoo and two children.

Fans flocked to his social media hoping the news of his death was fake.

They responded to his last tweet, which reads: “I’ll return a stronger man. This land is still my home.”

Comments accumulated at speed as people hoped these were not his last words.

Heartbroken fans all over Mzansi, have taken to their TLs to express their shock and sadness at the rapper’s untimely passing.



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