Watching the World
An intensive study involving family members of AIDS victims claims to have established conclusive evidence that the spread of the fatal disease does not occur from daily personal contact with one infected with AIDS, says a report in the New England Journal of Medicine. In the study that involved more than a hundred household members of 39 AIDS patients, a “substantial sharing of household facilities and items likely to be soiled with body secretions took place,” said the scientists. Kissing and hugging of AIDS patients by family members, as well as the sharing of towels, drinking glasses, toothbrushes, toilets, and beds, were included. Only one person, a five-year-old, showed any signs of infection by the AIDS virus from among the 101 whom researchers examined. Doctors concluded that the child, whose mother had the disease, likely was born with the infection, having a history of related disorders from infancy. Commenting on the study, Dr. Harold Jaffe, an official with the Federal Centers for Disease Control, noted: “This is a strong piece of additional evidence that casual transmission [of AIDS] does not occur.”
Swedish teenagers seem to be having trouble telling time on conventional clocks, apparently because of the influence of digital clocks and watches, reports The Times of London. According to a recent survey of some 2,000 Swedish teenagers, one out of five could not understand the expression “quarter to three.” Instead, they preferred “2:45” or “14:45.” The survey also noted that one in three teenagers had problems counting time with a digital watch “because it is a question of 60ths, rather than 10ths or 100ths.”
Every 20 minutes a suicide occurs in the United States. From 1970 to 1980, 237,322 suicides were recorded, establishing it as the tenth leading cause of death in the country. Dr.Mark L. Rosenberg, of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, states that for persons between the ages of 15 to 34, suicide is the third leading cause of death. For males age 15 to 24, suicide has increased 50 percent. Addressing a recent national conference on youth suicide, Dr. Rosenberg noted that “years ago, it might have been your father who committed suicide. Now it’s your son.” Explosives and firearms are listed as used most frequently in suicide deaths.
By the beginning of this year, the Federal Centers for Disease Control reported that 231 infants in the United States were born with AIDS. Over 40 percent of them, or 103 cases, were in New York City, making AIDS the “most common infectious disease in newborn infants” in some parts of the city, reports the Daily News. One city official noted that 69 percent of the city children with AIDS have died as compared with 52 percent of adults with AIDS, suggesting that the disease may more quickly be fatal in children than in adults. It is reported that the majority of these infants are born to women who are intravenous drug abusers and who likely contracted the disease through shared needles.
Brazilian bandits have discovered that holding up a van or a truck carrying coffee is more profitable and less risky than robbing a bank, reports the Latin America Daily Post. In Brazil, where the national beverage, coffee, has now become a luxury item, small vans and station wagons transporting from 220 to 880 pounds (100 to 400 kg) of coffee have become easy targets. Rio de Janeiro saw at least 25 holdups in the first month of this year, involving the theft of eight tons of coffee, then valued at more than $148,000!
Chinese Palate Pleaser
‘First steam it, then soak it in brine with ginger and pepper for a few hours. Next, press it into a steak, and then air it for a day. Cook it on a mixture of rice, bran, and sesame oil until the aroma fills the kitchen.’ What is the main ingredient in this popular South China delicacy? Rat meat! Promoting the dish is part of an attempt to reduce China’s rat population, presently estimated at about “half the world’s eight billion rats,” reports The Guardian of London. It is hoped that the more than 15 million tons of grain consumed by the rodents last year will not be entirely wasted. Why? A correspondent for China’s Economic Daily reports that rats raised on a grain diet make a tasty dish that is ‘easy to cook.’
Mirrors seem to be saving lives in Japan, reports the Asahi Evening News. The transport bureau of Sapporo City recently installed large mirrors on platform walls at four of its subway stations in an effort to prevent suicides. Since the subway opened in 1971, 60 people have committed suicide by jumping in front of oncoming trains. However, since the large mirrors were put up in Odori Station in 1984, there have been no suicide attempts. Authorities do not know the reason for the mirrors’ success but indicated that seeing their reflection while contemplating suicide, or the presence of groups of people who tend to gather in front of the mirrors, may be what causes potential suicides to reconsider.
Child Abuse Rises
Sexual assaults on Canadian children are believed to have increased 50 percent last year, reports The Globe and Mail of Canada. Girls as young as three years of age have had sexual intercourse forced on them, says an Ottawa police official. He adds that because of such abuse, “children are receiving sexually transmitted diseases.” Statistics involving sexually abused children in Ottawa suggest that 93 percent know who their abusers are.
More Than Beef
While the average 1,000-pound (454 kg) steer may provide only about 435 pounds (197 kg) of meat, the Beef Information Centre of Canada claims that not a scrap of what remains is wasted, reports The Toronto Star. What is left is used in the manufacture of by-products that include gum, marshmallows, and violin strings. Additionally, the bones and horns are used in the production of gelatin products, canned meats, and ice cream. Other by-products are china, soap, buttons, lipsticks, explosives, and fabric softener. More than a hundred lifesaving and life-improving drugs contain important ingredients from the animal. Insulin used in the treatment of diabetes can be found in the pancreas, and heparin, which is used during operations to prevent blood coagulation as well as in the treatment of frostbite and burns, is derived from the animal’s lungs.
The recent development of a device dubbed a bone shaker has made doctors optimistic about improving the recovery time of patients with serious bone fractures, reports The Times of London. What is it? A special metal frame with a spring-loaded mechanism linked to a compressor. When attached to the broken limb of a patient, it creates a gentle vibration that is designed to stimulate new cell growth. Since the device supplies movement similar to walking, patients in early treatment can “go for a walk” without getting out of bed. The metal frame is designed to provide controlled movement to the fracture once the patient gets on his feet, thus minimizing the danger of muscle atrophy. Fractures treated with this method are said to heal up to 20 percent faster than they would in plaster casts.
“Age of Lawlessness”
Britain now has over a hundred thousand children in care or subject to court supervision orders—more than any other European country, claims a National Children’s Home report. The highest rate of criminal offenses in recent years has been among boys from 14 to 16 years of age, and over half the men guilty of criminal acts were under 21 years of age. This means that two out of every five men in Britain will have a criminal record during their lifetime. Little wonder that London’s Daily Mail headlined its analysis of the facts: “An Age of Lawlessness”!
A recent study shows that teenage pregnancies cost the United States $16.6 billion last year. By the time the children of these teenage parents reach their 20th year, the government will have spent $6.04 billion on such programs as Medicaid and food stamps for their support. It is estimated that families started by teenagers accounted for 53 percent of all families receiving assistance through such government-sponsored programs. The report noted that if teenage mothers had waited until they were 20 years of age to have their first child, $2.4 billion, one third of the welfare total, could have been saved. Each year, of the 385,000 teenage girls who have their first child, half are under the age of 18.
The theme of the 16th World Economic Forum, held this past February in Davos, Switzerland, was “courage for global action.” Enthusiasm for coordinated global economic action, however, was sadly lacking. Quentin Davies, a director of a British merchant bank, bemoaned: “There was a feeling of uplift in Western economies here last year, but this year there is a cloud.” The 600 delegates, representing 52 countries, included 44 government ministers. While government officials emphasized the theme of courageous action for growth in both industrialized and developing countries, the businessmen present responded with considerable apprehension. Falling oil prices, an unsteady dollar, and the enormous debts of many developing countries are among the factors that are giving international businessmen the economic blues.