Watching the World
Population Outpacing Literacy
◆ This year the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is not going to award its two usual yearly prizes for outstanding contributions toward the combating of illiteracy. Why? Because illiterates are still growing in number. UNESCO estimates that world wide there are at least 758 million persons unable to read or write—26 million more than three years earlier.
Record Cost of Living
◆ In Tokyo, Japan, the cost of living is higher than it is in any other principal city, reported a recent edition of the United Nations’ Monthly Bulletin of Statistics. It pointed out that, on an average, something costing $100 in New York city is priced at $144 in Tokyo. The cost of living index appearing in that issue of the Bulletin rated Accra, Ghana, just below Tokyo, and it was followed by The Hague, Geneva, Brussels, Bonn, Paris, Singapore and London. The least expensive place to live? Valletta, Malta. However, Japan’s Daily Yomiuri explains: “The comparison was based on the assumption that UN employees enjoy the same living standards as in New York, and thus it does not necessarily reflect price levels in major cities precisely.”
Cockroaches and Asthma Attacks
◆ It has been known for a long time that some insects act as allergens. Now experiments with cockroach extract seem to prove that cockroaches too can provoke allergic asthma attacks. Human “guinea pigs” succumbed to fits of asthma either immediately or shortly after being brought in contact with the extract. However, those who inhaled disodium chromoglycate (an asthma drug) before the experiment showed no sign of an attack. The occurrence of such attacks is found to be higher among poorer populations, where excrements and secretions of cockroaches often mix with the dust on the floor, giving rise to allergen pollution. Cockroaches may also contaminate foodstuffs and in this way act as allergens. Added the Brazilian newspaper O Estado de S.Paulo: “The odd thing is that this allergen is thermostable, resistant to boiling.” Cockroaches are more likely to breed where there is lack of hygiene.
To the Salt Mines
◆ Some bronchial asthma sufferers in Russia have sought relief in an old salt mine 300 meters (984 feet) below Solotvina, U.S.S.R. Therapy involves merely sleeping nightly in the 300-bed facility for 300 hours, or about one and a half months. It is claimed that breathing the mine air, laden with sodium chloride, has cured child asthmatics, although adults may require a second period of treatment there. While the plausibility of Russian claims has been questioned, over 8,000 persons already have undergone the salt-mine asthma therapy.
◆ In 1912 the passenger ship Titanic struck an iceberg and sank, resulting in about 1,500 deaths. Icebergs still imperil ocean travelers, for each year some 16,000 new ice masses develop in Arctic waters, principally in the vicinity of Greenland. But their formation and movement are monitored by the Coast Guard. Recently, over a 25-day period, scientists photographed a particular iceberg that entered the North Atlantic, noting its changes while melting and due to erosion by waves. By analyzing these photos, they hope to determine how to forecast the movements of other icebergs.
Television Game Risk
◆ In some cases, electronic TV games can damage a set by burning the phosphor coating of the tube, reports New Scientist. As evidence, it says that “British service engineers . . . are beginning to encounter sets which have the impression of a football field or tennis court indelibly burnt” into the tube’s coating. It is believed that color sets, with less picture brilliance, are not as susceptible to tube burn as are monochrome (black and white) TV sets. As a precaution, the same monochrome game should not be played continuously for hours, and the contrast and brightness controls on a black-and-white set should be turned down fairly low. “This,” says the journal, “will prevent any single area of the tube from receiving a prolonged dose of a static brilliant white on jet black.”
Nun Brews Best
◆ A 28-year-old nun of the Poor Franciscan Order recently excelled over 26 men in obtaining her master brewer’s diploma in Ulm, Germany. The nun brews some 3,300 pints (1,560 liters) of beer yearly from barley grown on the farm of the Mallersdorf convent near Regensburg. Her brew, sold locally, has a 12.6 percent alcohol content. During Christmastime and Easter she brews a stronger beer, containing 16 to 18 percent alcohol.
Alcohol Harder on Women
◆ A recent study by the University of Toronto, as reported in Archives of Internal Medicine, reveals that alcoholic illnesses strike women sooner and more forcefully than men. For men, the average period before the onset of such diseases was 20 years, compared with 14 for women. Also, among the women there was more anemia and twice the incidence of cirrhosis of the liver.
Synthetic Fire-Log Danger
◆ The Consumers’ Association of Canada urges care in using man-made fire logs in your fireplace. Do not use more than one at a time, and follow the directions carefully. The Association’s periodical Canadian Consumer cautioned against moving or poking a burning synthetic log. “It also warned against using broken logs and adding a fire log to a wood fire,” reports Changing Times, adding: “Any breakage dangerously increases the amount of heat in the fireplace.”
Sweet Healing Powder
◆ Swedish scientists recently developed a new powder that has proved effective in rapidly healing open wounds. Called dextranomer, it was produced from water-soluble dextrose in granular form. Parade magazine reports that the sweet powder “absorbs the moisture in the wound containing the germs and contaminants.”
Siberia Yields Mammoth
◆ An excellent specimen of about a six-month-old mammoth was found in Siberia this past summer. It was discovered by a workman operating a bulldozer in permafrost mud of a Kolyma River tributary in the Soviet Union’s Yakutsk Republic. With a height of 144 centimeters (57 inches), the frozen creature has relatively small ears, large feet and fur of a reddish color. “And most interesting,” says the British journal New Scientist, “there are two ‘fingers’ at the end of the trunk, . . . unlike an elephant but confirming . . . cave paintings of mammoths.”
Record Alcohol Consumption
◆ Although residents of Italy and France drink larger amounts of alcoholic beverages, Russians reportedly consume more pure alcohol annually. The Russian favorites vodka and cognac have a much higher alcohol content than do the beer and wine preferred by people of western Europe. According to the Russian Research Center of Harvard University, from the standpoint of alcohol content itself, the average citizen of Russia drinks 6 1⁄3 quarts (6 liters) a year, whereas among the French average yearly consumption is about 4 3⁄4 A quarts (4 1⁄2 liters). The study also reveals that while annual per capita drinking of alcoholic beverages has risen approximately 3 percent in 14 other industrialized lands, it has gone up 5 percent in Russia.
Movie Theater Trend
◆ Americans frequented motion-picture theaters approximately 33 times a year back in 1948. During 1976, however, per capita moviegoing had dropped to under five times.
Electronic Aid for Stutterers
◆ Researchers at Scotland’s Edinburgh University have developed an electronic device that helps stammerers and stutterers. It has been found that certain noises often cause these persons to speak without difficulty, losing their impediment. So, using earpieces linked with it and a sensor on the neck, the box-shaped aid produces a sound that masks the wearer’s own voice. Termed the “Edinburgh Masker,” the device is said to have been 90 percent successful during seven years of testing.
◆ The Health Insurance Institute reports that arthritis is responsible for greater protracted suffering to more U.S. residents than any other ailment. One person in ten has it in a form severe enough to call for medical attention.
Color TV for Afghanistan
◆ In about ten months, Afghanistan will enter the television age. Its first TV station is then expected to begin operating at the capital city of Kabul, with a potential audience of 1.5 million in that area. Facilities for broadcasting in color now are under construction by the Japanese and will cost approximately $5.2 million. Of this amount, $3.2 million will be a grant put up by the government of Japan. “Afghan officials say the station’s main purpose will be educational, especially literacy training,” reports The Wall Street Journal, adding: “Only 10% of Afghans can read or write . . . In the capital itself, the literacy rate is little better at 30%.”
◆ Recently, three persons died in the United States after they drank teas mistakenly prepared from poisonous plants. Therefore, the Center for Disease Control urges that an herbal-tea drinker should make sure that he knows what he is drinking “when experimenting with herbs or unfamiliar substances.”
The Camels Are Coming
◆ High oil prices and the harsh climate of North Africa favor a return to camels for transport. Parade magazine reports: “Many traffic experts believe that especially on the Sahara routes the camel is superior to all motorized caravans. Camels are cheaper, more reliable, need less maintenance, and rarely break down.”
Decorated Drinking Glasses
◆ According to Chemical and Engineering News, if gold or some semiprecious metal has not been used in decorating a drinking glass, lead has been employed for any decorations it bears. It has been found that the lead may leach off by licking and due to contact with acids in drinks. Also, there may be lead intake if a person’s sticky fingers have handled the glass and then touched his mouth. But Science News comments that “scientists are still unsure about whether there is any health hazard” associated with such drinking glasses.
Hypertension in Young People
◆ Hypertension (high blood pressure) affects about 23 million Americans and is a major contributor to heart attacks, strokes and kidney failures. Recent studies of young people have revealed that from the age of one day to 18 years about 6 percent suffer from hypertension. In the older ages of this group as many as 11 have high blood pressure. A common factor cited is excessive amounts of salt in the diet from hamburgers, pizza, French fried potatoes, canned soups, bacon and other favorite foods. Excessive cholesterol, dietary fat and carbohydrates (sugars and starches), as well as the lack of adequate exercise, may also play a role. Professor E. Petry, a pediatrician from Loma Linda University in California states: “Only 10 percent of adolescents are physically fit.” The lack of fitness is related to the many hours children spend watching television each day.