Watching the World
RADIATION FOR FREQUENT FLIERS
Air travelers are exposed to more cosmic radiation from stars and the sun than are people at ground level, new studies from the U.S. Department of Transportation show. Flight crews, very frequent fliers on long trips, and pregnant women are subjected to a higher risk, says the report. The higher the plane is flying and the closer to the poles, especially during solar storms, the higher the dose of radiation. However, Dr. A. B. Wolbarst of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency told The New York Times that the risks of cancer from a dose of radiation when flying between New York and Athens “are relatively small compared to the kinds of risks one faces in the world.”
WHAT MATTERS TO THE YOUNG?
A survey asked more than 2,000 young West Australians from 12 to 24 years of age to rate the subjects most important to them. The results showed that family life was by far the most important issue to young people, far outranking all others. The youths also expressed concern about their personal future and the future of society in general, according to The West Australian newspaper. The other top issues were education and training, peace, income, and health. But political and religious issues were well down on the list.
In Japan divorce among middle-aged couples has more than doubled in the last 20 years. Typically, explains divorce consultant Yoriko Madoka, the wife suddenly seeks divorce after 30 years of marriage, and the husband feels “his hand has been bitten by his own pet dog.” Many women, though, rather than face the hardships of a divorcée, opt for an “in-house divorce,” according to The Daily Yomiuri. In other words, the husband lives upstairs and the wife downstairs with the children. The wife does nothing for the husband and tries to avoid meeting him. Thus, social status, economic stability, and appearances are maintained. But for how long? Divorces granted by courts to people over 60 years of age leaped 42.3 percent between 1983 and 1988, with equal numbers of husbands and wives seeking divorce.
DEADLY BIRD TRADE
The wild-bird trade is blamed for millions of bird deaths each year—with estimates reaching as high as a hundred million dead. “There’s a mortality of at least five wild-caught birds for every one sold alive,” claims the South African journal Personality. To capture exotic birds, some traders chop down nesting trees and seize the young who manage to survive the fall. Another method is to shoot a flock of birds with pellets and grab those that fall to the earth with slight wing wounds. Then follows the task of keeping the birds alive and airfreighting them to distant lands, where they often arrive dead. What profit could there be in it? Personality explains: “The number of birds traded is conservatively estimated at about 5 million a year. But this doesn’t include the huge number of smuggled birds . . . Bird fanciers and collectors are prepared to pay up to $250,000 for coveted but protected species.”
GLOBAL CLIMATE PACT
After difficult negotiations, all 159 member nations of the UN unanimously agreed to draft a treaty on stabilizing the earth’s climate. They are to meet in Brazil in 1992 to discuss ways to prevent warming of the atmosphere and reduce the impact of economic development on the environment. But there the agreement ends, and many delicate issues still need to be resolved. According to journalist Paul Lewis, the developing countries see the concern of the industrialized world over the environment as a chance to press for economic concessions. In return for their cooperation, they want access to new environmentally safe technologies, as well as debt relief and higher prices for their exports. The United Nations has warned that a thousand million people—almost a fifth of the world’s population—could become refugees in the upcoming century if the greenhouse effect makes sea levels rise dramatically.
Almost 70 percent of the State Archives of North Rhine-Westphalia, Federal Republic of Germany, are threatened with decomposition. The decay, according to a state minister, has its root cause in the paper. Since the 19th century, industrially produced paper has contained acidifying elements that produce decay. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports that 26 percent of items on hand have already turned yellow to varying degrees. Traditional methods of preservation and restoration offer only part of the solution.
◻ Eating frequently may be beneficial, says researchers at the University of Toronto. Fed the same amount and type food but in 17 portions at hourly intervals instead of in three meals a day, the group of men tested showed an average decline in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol of 13.5 percent, total blood cholesterol of 8.5 percent, and blood insulin of 29 percent. Eating one big meal a day was said to be the worst eating pattern. One drawback is that snacking usually leads to a greater intake of calories.
◻ A study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association shows that women who take over-the-counter multivitamin pills containing folic acid while trying to conceive and for at least six weeks after becoming pregnant sharply reduce the chance of having babies born with neural-tube defects. Neural-tube defects may cause paralysis, mental retardation, and death.
◻ “There is now overwhelming evidence that a diet rich in fruit and vegetables can help to reduce the risk of cancer,” notes New Scientist magazine. The vitamins thus obtained “exert their protective effect by combating damaging reactions in the body’s cells.” Researchers say that the more vegetables eaten, the less likely it is that one will fall victim to lung cancer. And without sufficient vitamin C, oxidation reactions in the bloodstream could lead to ailments such as strokes, heart disease, and cataracts.
CAN DOGS SEE COLOR?
Dogs have limited color vision, conclude researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara. After a yearlong study, the scientists found that dogs can distinguish colors at opposite ends of the color spectrum, red and blue, but cannot distinguish between yellow, green, and orange.
SECOND THOUGHTS ON TRANSFUSIONS
Blood transfusions have increasingly been used in developing countries to treat young malaria patients who have contracted life-threatening anemia. In 1986, for example, 16,352 such transfusions were given at Mama Yemo Hospital, Kinshasa, Zaire. However, during 1987 the number of blood transfusions dwindled. Why? The London-based Panoscope magazine reports that after doctors at Mama Yemo discovered that 13 percent of a group of children given blood transfusions for malaria became infected with HIV, the virus that carries AIDS, the hospital’s medical staff changed its policy of “automatic blood transfusions for anaemic children.” Instead, some young patients at the Kinshasa hospital were given iron supplements to help build up their blood. That way, Panoscope says, “the number of blood transfusions was reduced by 73% to 4,531—and not a single child’s life was lost.”
In the 1970’s many German males opted for sterilization. They were caught up, reports the newspaper Main Post, in “the wave of sexual freedom.” Professor W. Schulze, of the Hamburg-Eppendorf University Hospital, thinks that many chose such operations too readily. An increasing number of sterilized men would now like to have the operation reversed. However, in 10 percent of the cases, restoration of fertility is no longer possible. Furthermore, the chances of successfully reversing the sterilization grow slimmer with the passage of time.
Parents need not be too concerned if their children have only peanut butter and bread for school lunches. Eleanor Brownridge, a nutritionist from London, Ontario, Canada, claims you cannot go wrong “with peanut butter sandwiches because the filling and bread are ideal protein partners.” She adds that it is a simple matter to “enrich the taste and nutrition of peanut butter with ingredients . . . such as chopped apple, raisins, apricots, dates, sliced banana, even coleslaw.” Younger students tend to find security in the sameness of familiar lunches. But, reports The Vancouver Sun, “it’s also nice to include a few surprises such as cutting the bread with a cookie cutter or tucking a note in the lunch kit.”