Watching the World
The continued proliferation of nuclear weapons is giving rise to “nuclear allergy”—an antinuclear reaction by many nations who are refusing to allow nuclear weapons within their borders or who are supporting renewed efforts at arms control. “The metaphor is, in a sense, apt,” says Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, “since the greater the exposure to the allergen—nuclear weapons and related technologies—the greater the reaction to it.” Already ten nations that once hosted nuclear weapons for the United States have refused to do so any longer. And some of Soviet Russia’s allies have reportedly either denied having Soviet nuclear weapons on their soil or have said they wouldn’t accept them. Says the report: “From prohibitions on weapons deployments and port visits to declarations of ‘nuclear-free’ zones, the nuclear system is under attack.”
What makes many marriages last? It is viewing one’s partner as one’s best friend and liking him or her as a person. That was the most common reason given by 300 happy couples married 15 years or longer. According to Psychology Today, the couples displayed “remarkable agreement on the keys to an enduring relationship.” Overwhelmingly, they exercised patience and restraint with each other rather than freely venting their anger. Each partner was willing to give more than he or she received. And rather than maintaining separate interests, they spent as much time together and shared as many activities as possible.
A tourist town in Japan has come up with a novel way to stop empty-soft-drink-can litter. First, shops selling canned drinks buy special seals from the town council. These seals are stuck on cans that are then sold for an extra ¥10 (4 cents, U.S.). Marked can-deposit machines that sing are placed at strategic points around the town. When an empty can with an affixed seal is deposited in the machine, a recording of “the sounds of the forest” is played and ¥10 is refunded. The empty cans are collected by recycling companies who pay ¥3 (1.2 cents, U.S.) per can to their distributors who, in turn, will buy more seals, and the cycle begins again.
Fewer Heart Attacks
“For the past 20 years, the mortality rate from coronary heart disease—the nation’s leading cause of death—has been steadily declining,” reports University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter. “After decades of increase, the rate started downward in about 1963, and by 1982 had dropped 37%.” To find out why, two Boston researchers assessed the effectiveness of five coronary treatments and of the nationwide trend of lowering cholesterol intake and reducing smoking. The findings? The five treatments combined accounted for 40 percent of the decline in the mortality rate. But cholesterol reduction accounted for 30 percent of the decline, and smoking reduction accounted for another 24 percent. Concluded the report: “Prevention, through simple life-style changes, has had more impact on the heart disease mortality rate in the general population than sophisticated cures have.”
Dutch Drinking Problem
The Netherlands’ image of being a milk-drinking, cheese-eating nation may be changing. Alcohol consumption has tripled since 1960. What is responsible for the increase? “Misleading advertisements suggesting that alcohol is a contributor to a successful and pleasant life” is one of the reasons, concludes a government study. The Department of Welfare, Health, and Culture says that excessive alcohol consumption has been causing more traffic accidents, higher job absenteeism, increased public violence, child and spouse beating, and vandalism.
Who Gets the Best Grades?
“The majority of students who reported earning mostly A’s in school also were the ones who said they had the highest degree of parental supervision,” reports the Detroit Free Press, based on a survey of 30,000 second-year high school students across the country. These high achievers “were more likely to talk to their parents daily, and their parents were more likely to keep close track of how they did in school.” The number of books at home was also found to be an indicator of how well a student would do in school.
Placebo Back Treatment
Some unorthodox, even fake, treatments for back pain are as effective as standard treatments, conclude doctors at Guy’s Hospital in London. The doctors divided 109 patients with low back pain into three groups. The first group was given spinal manipulations by an osteopath. The second was given standard diathermy treatment (by heat machine). The last group was treated with a nonfunctioning diathermy machine, rigged to flashlights that give off electric noises. Amazingly, it was the last group that had the highest percentage—67 percent—of patients reporting less back pain. This compared with 59 percent of those who received real diathermy treatment and 62 percent of those who received osteopathy. It therefore seems obvious that the mental attitude of the patient toward the treatment has a bearing on the effectiveness of the cure.
Ecological Woes of Wars
Besides the toll in human lives and social disruption, three decades of warfare in Vietnam have wreaked ecological havoc, according to a study by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources). Bombing, bulldozing, and the spraying of herbicides cost Vietnam 26 million cubic yards (20 million cu m) of commercial timber and over 365,000 acres (148,000 ha) of rubber trees. Additionally, during the war years, about 37 million acres (15 million ha) of forests were lost, mostly due to neglect. Today forests cover less than 23 percent of the land, compared to 44 percent in 1943. Nevertheless, “money that should be invested in agricultural and industrial development is still going to the war machine,” says Dr. John MacKinnon, an IUCN consultant.
“I am concerned about the number of hit tunes that can only be called porn rock, and about the tasteless, graphic and gratuitous sexuality saturating the airwaves and filtering into our homes,” writes Kandy Stroud in Newsweek. Stroud points out some telling examples of lewd, prurient obscenities. Says Stroud: “Surprisingly, the majority of parents I’ve spoken to have expressed partial or total ignorance of the music their children are dancing to, doing homework to, falling asleep to.”
Levels of 11 common air pollutants are higher in the average home than around the factories giving off these pollutants, reports the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). The chemicals—commonly found in household products such as cleaning agents, building materials, and gasoline, or in cigarette smoke—included benzene, carbon tetrachloride, and chloroform. Concluded a summary of the study: “Indoor levels of all the target chemicals are much greater than outdoor levels”—in some cases 70 times greater. Environmentalists fear that the government may use the results as an excuse to ignore the problem of toxic chemicals in outdoor air.
Running Fever Cools
“Technically, the running boom in the sense of large year-to-year increases in participants is over,” says Jennifer Young, of the National Running Data Center in Tucson, Arizona. The number of marathons has decreased by a fifth since 1980, and marathon participants are down by 20,000. “Most of these people are drifting to shorter distances,” adds George Hirsch, publisher of Runner magazine. Also, runners are taking up other kinds of exercise. Concludes Young: “A lot of people are realizing you don’t have to run 50 to 60 miles a week to be fit.”
Clearing the Air
Roughly 35 percent of American men are smokers compared with 52 percent 20 years ago, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Also, 29 percent of American women smoke, down from a peak of 34 percent. Smoking by teenagers is also decreasing. In a survey of 16,000 high school seniors in the class of 1984, only 18.7 percent were found to be smokers, compared with 28.8 percent seven years ago. The Wall Street Journal reports another finding: “In general, the average smoker today . . . is likely to have less money, be less educated and work at a less prestigious job than the average nonsmoker.”
Dialing the World
Walking half a day to get to a phone may sound like a dreadful inconvenience, yet that is what the ITU (International Telecommunication Union), an agency of the United Nations, is striving to achieve for the average citizen in Third World countries within two decades. That compares to perhaps a week’s travel at present. The ITU favors satellite systems over land lines. Interestingly, there are about 600 million telephones presently in operation worldwide, but 75 percent of them are in only nine of the more developed countries. Three quarters of the world’s population live in countries with fewer than ten phones for every 100 persons.
A team of scientists in Zimbabwe has found a cheap method of controlling the dread tsetse fly. The scientists stretched black cloth impregnated with pyrethrin insecticide over metal frames and placed open jars containing attractant chemicals under the frames. Four screens with jars were placed every square kilometer (.4 sq mi) next to an infested region. “Within a few weeks the numbers of tsetse flies had declined to 0.3 per cent of the original numbers on the border—the most heavily infested area—and to 0.1 per cent . . . in the interior of the controlled area,” reports New Scientist. Also, villagers in Burma successfully tested an economical method of controlling mosquitoes, which breed in local water supplies and spread dengue fever. The villagers placed pairs of dragonfly larvae in 400 water drums infested with mosquito larvae. Two weeks later the mosquito larvae were gone. Six weeks later there were no mosquitoes in the area.