Watching the World
New research indicates that “people may carry the AIDS virus for up to three years without its being detected by standard AIDS tests,” says The New York Times. Until recently, researchers believed that AIDS antibodies were produced by infected people within six months from the time of infection. However, a study conducted on homosexual men known to be infected with the AIDS virus showed that a quarter of the group “did not produce the antibodies that are detected by AIDS screening tests” for “long periods” of time. According to Dr. Harold Jaffe of the Federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, this means that individuals may be “unwittingly transmitting the virus” to others and increasing the risk to the nation’s blood supply.
DRUGS AND DEATH
▪ It is estimated that about half a million Colombians are smoking basuco cigarettes, a low-grade by-product of cocaine processing that was fostered by Colombian drug cartels. Reportedly laced with kerosene, sulfuric acid, and other poisonous chemicals, the drug can cause irreversible brain damage. Children as young as eight can be seen on many street corners of Bogotá, openly selling and using the lethal cigarettes. According to The Detroit News, one expert claims that Colombians are literally “dying on the streets from smoking basuco.”
▪ One million firearms are in the hands of Colombia’s private citizens, reports the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva. The city of Medellín alone has one violent death every three hours. This problem is compounded by a major internal war raging in Colombia among drug cartels. Drug barons have set up paramilitary groups to protect themselves and their families, which has led to an incalculable number of victims who have disappeared or have been murdered, observed the New Zealand Herald.
THE BURDEN OF DEBT
A revolt against price increases in Venezuela recently resulted in 256 deaths and in thousands being injured. The increases in prices were apparently related to the country’s efforts to pay some of its external debt. The burden of debt to international banks is increasing for many nations, and according to Brazil’s Veja magazine, in the last 20 years, not one of these countries has succeeded in stabilizing its economy. Brazil alone owes 112,000 million dollars. With the annual interest alone on this debt, 5,000,000 homes or 53,000 schools could be built to benefit millions. Many statesmen and bankers are admitting that Third World debt is unpayable. Said Michel Camdessus of the International Monetary Fund: “What happened in Venezuela last week was the explosion of just one of many time bombs that could be set off unless solutions for the external debt crisis are not soon found. The debtor countries are exhausted.”
AN UNDERWATER FUTURE?
Dire predictions about the global warming trend, known as the greenhouse effect, are particularly foreboding to residents of the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu. As it is, virtually none of Tuvalu rises more than six feet [2 m] above the sea. Yet, scientists predict relentlessly rising sea levels. New Scientist magazine of England quotes one expert as saying: “If internationally accepted assumptions are correct, most of Tuvalu will be inundated by the end of the 21st century.”
Civil aviation had a dismal record in 1988. In Helsinki, at a meeting of airline pilots representing 72 countries, it was reported that there were 578 deaths due to sabotage, hijacking, and air or ground attacks with military weapons. When accidents are included, the total loss of passengers and crew members escalates to 1,662, reports the Swiss newspaper Basler Zeitung. Such statistics suggest that terrorism is a growing threat to civil aviation.
Australia has one of the highest levels of child poverty among western nations, says a report in the Sydney Sun-Herald. A research paper released by The Brotherhood of St. Laurence, a welfare group, suggests various causes, including the worsening problem of single parenthood. A spokesman for the welfare group referred to Australia’s child poverty as a “national disgrace in a country as affluent as Australia.”
SAVING THE FORESTS
The University of California in Berkeley reports that in their first month of using recycled paper for the printing of their newsletter, 20 tons of recycled paper was used. They claim that each ton saves 17 trees, making a total of 340 trees saved each month. Using recycled paper produced less pollution of air and water and saved about 60 cubic yards [50 cu m] of landfill space each month.
COPING WITH OLD AGE
Recent surveys taken in the Federal Republic of Germany demonstrate how important a positive attitude and outlook are to continued vitality as people grow older. One survey gauged the outlook of residents of a home for old people. Based on the answers to a questionnaire, scientists were able to predict with 92 percent accuracy who of the respondents would survive over a three-year period. A report in the German newspaper Rheinischer Merkur/Christ und Welt concludes that those who see no future for themselves, or have little to do with caring for themselves and making their own decisions, may have a poorer chance of survival. However, the old are often underestimated. The paper observes that while the human brain may lose some of its speed and capacity with age, “this slowdown is offset” by other aspects of intelligence that are honed by practice and “function best later in life.”
A female crane has apparently missed the point of her training. The crane had been hatched artificially at the Kushiro Japanese Crane Natural Park and spent so much time with humans that the park’s head keeper worried that this beautiful bird, now almost two years old, might not know the correct way to attract a mate. For cranes this involves a special “dance.” And the zealous park keeper taught the crane the steps. However, since cranes are strictly faithful to just one mate, the Kushiro crane launches into her courtship dance whenever she sees her trainer!
The frequency of diagnostic errors in the medical profession was discussed this year at the annual convention of internal medicine, held in Wiesbaden, Germany. One of the delegates remarked that part of the problem is the prevalent “blind and unjustified faith in the diagnostic infallibility of technical equipment.” However, it was stressed that physicians are not the only ones who make mistakes. The German newspaper Die Welt notes that many patients contribute “too little to the diagnostic process.” It lists as examples patients who do not even know the names of medicines they take regularly. Others, ashamed of their past, withhold or misrepresent details of their medical history.
Although most films are rated by the Motion Picture Association of America, there is an increasing proliferation of unrated videos in the United States. Many video stores are not required by law to prevent minors from renting or buying a sex-filled or violent tape, notes the New York Daily News. According to one authority, many videos are not rated even though they contain sexual and violent scenes that would normally result in an X rating, for ratings apply only to movies destined for theaters. It has been found that when two versions of a new film are released, one rated and the other unrated, about 75 percent of sales come from the unrated version.
NOSES AGAINST CRIME
A new line of work may soon open up for keen-nosed dogs—detecting stolen objects. The French newspaper Le Figaro explained: “The method is inspired by the way animals communicate chemically with one another by means of certain molecules called ‘pheromones.’” Dogs are especially sensitive to the scent of their particular species. They could rapidly identify stolen goods marked with animal scent undetectable to humans. Valuable paintings and other works of art could thus be marked without any damage. According to one researcher, “certain molecules remain detectable for a long time, depending on the degree of protection wanted.” The article noted that museums are particularly interested in this new protective measure.