Watching the World
TV’s Global Grasp
Just how popular is television worldwide? According to the International Herald Tribune, over a billion TV sets cover the globe, 50 percent more than there were five years ago. In Japanese homes, TV sets outnumber flush toilets. Only about half of Mexican homes have a telephone, but just about every household has a TV. And many Americans have 25 or 30 channels to choose from. States the Tribune: “The cultural, political and economic effects of this global television revolution are enormous. . . . Some worry that all that TV watching will make the rest of the world lose its appetite for reading, as has already happened to two generations of Americans.”
Family Blood No Safer
A government study of over a million blood donations in five major areas in the United States has exposed the falsity of the common belief that blood donations from friends or family members are safer than those from strangers. For instance, one test showed that 2.6 percent of blood donations from relatives and friends were infected with hepatitis B, as compared with 1.8 percent from anonymous donors. The donations from family members and friends were also found to be higher in contamination with syphilis, hepatitis C, and a cancer-causing virus, HTLV-1. “You’re not improving your risk by asking friends or relatives to donate for you,” said Lyle Petersen of the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Pushing the Planet to the Brink
The world’s current yearly population growth is almost 100 million, and it is estimated that by the year 2050, the earth’s population will be 10 billion, says a report in the British Medical Journal. The Royal Society of London and the U.S. National Academy of Science issued an unprecedented joint statement that said that such growth threatens the environment with irreversible damage. This would be particularly true if the developing nations, where most of the growth is taking place, were to consume resources at the same rate as the developed world. The academies suggested a central role for science and technology but said it is not prudent to rely on them alone “to solve problems created by rapid population growth, wasteful resource consumption, and harmful human practices.” If nothing changes, the statement said, “science and technology may not be able to prevent either irreversible degradation of the environment or continued poverty for much of the world.” “If we don’t make serious attempts to control population everything else becomes secondary,” stated Sir Michael Atiyah, president of the Royal Society of London.
Aid That Never Arrives
Only 7 percent of the international aid donated to alleviate hunger and poverty in Africa reaches the intended beneficiaries, admits Ferhat Yunes, vice president of the African Development Bank. This tragedy is compounded by the desperate situation of millions of African children. The Spanish newspaper El País reports that throughout the continent, there are 30 million malnourished children and a further 40 million whose growth is retarded by poor diet. Representatives of 44 African countries, meeting in Dakar, Senegal, recommended the decentralization of aid distribution and a reduction in defense spending as two important steps toward improving the lot of these children.
African dust, scooped from the savanna and scrubland by hot, dry winds, benefits other parts of the planet, say scientists. Partly because of a prolonged drought in southern Africa, millions of tons of African topsoil were converted into thick dust plumes in 1992 alone, reports the International Herald Tribune. Much of the dust falls into the Atlantic Ocean, providing minerals—particularly much-needed iron—to plankton and krill, which are at the beginning of the food chain. The rest drifts to the Americas. Studies in the Amazon rain forest indicate that African dust helps revitalize nutrient-poor soils there. “This African dust feeding the Atlantic and the Americas shows how very large and distant ecosystems depend on each other,” says Dr. Michael Garstang of the University of Virginia. “The message is that our planet consists of many interconnected and interdependent systems which we barely understand. We’re just beginning to scratch the surface.”
Religious Magazines Fold
“Two of the nation’s oldest religious magazines, American Baptist and Christian Herald, have ceased publication,” reports an Associated Press dispatch. “Both the 115-year-old Christian Herald, started in 1878 and based in Chappaqua, N.Y., and the 189-year-old American Baptist, whose antecedent magazine started in 1803, cited declining circulation.” The monthly American Baptist, based in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, will be replaced by a newsletter. However, another religious journal of that era, The Watchtower, continues to grow. First published monthly in 1879 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with a circulation of 6,000 copies in English, The Watchtower is now published semimonthly in 112 languages and has a circulation of 16,400,000 copies per issue.
Violence in Schools
A wide-ranging survey of 169 schools in Hamburg, Germany, tried to discover the causes of rising aggression at institutions of learning. Why are schools reporting extortion, intimidation, bodily injuries, and sex offenses with increasing frequency? According to the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the pupils surveyed cited violence in the media, neglect at home, conflicts with foreign pupils, and stress at school as the main reasons. The survey also pointed to a number of social factors that impeded the solving of problems of violence at school. For instance, it was found that children and youths commonly lacked an awareness of guilt or wrong and were very egocentric, intolerant, and inconsiderate. And many parents regarded the use of violence to resolve conflicts as normal and were teaching their children to strike back and defend themselves.
Led Astray by Nectar
What happens when bees gorge themselves on fermented nectar? They behave like drunken men. Some cannot find their way home, and those that do are usually refused entry into the hive because of their aberrant behavior. Then, if they don’t die of cold, their hangover may be so severe that it reduces their life span by half, reports the Spanish daily El País. However, in the case of bees, drunkenness is quite involuntary. As explained by Errol Hassan of the University of Queensland, Australia, an increase in temperature can cause the nectar on which they feed to ferment and produce alcohol.
“Smokers could be wrongly told they are healthy when they face an increased risk of suffering a heart attack,” says an article in The New York Times. Why? Because damage done by smoking to the tiny blood vessels of the heart (the arterioles) does not show up on conventional heart tests. So when smokers are under physical or emotional stress, their hearts become starved for blood, pushing their risk of heart attacks even higher. A study at the Iowa Heart Institute in Des Moines showed that this is true even when the smoker is not smoking and that the problem is exacerbated during smoking. When under stress, the arterioles of the heart open up and can carry four times more blood than normal to the heart. But in smokers’ hearts that flow is decreased by 30 percent.
New Recruitment Tactic
“Television advertisements showing nuns mowing lawns and priests playing basketball are part of a new Catholic Church recruitment drive to boost the dwindling ranks of the clergy,” reports The West Australian newspaper. “The 30-second ads . . . show young priests and nuns discussing their vocation while mowing lawns, going shopping, playing sport and visiting hospitals and prisons.” Priest Brian Lucas, spokesman for the Sydney Catholic Church, said that nuns and priests were usually portrayed as holding candles and standing under church steeples and that this campaign would help others to view them as ordinary people. The TV campaign is being screened in Melbourne and will then expand interstate if considered a success.