Watching the World
Blood Scandal in France
“A disaster unprecedented in Western Europe.” That is how the French newspaper Le Monde recently described the scandal over the practice of collecting blood from prisoners to use in transfusions. In the 1980’s some 5,000 French patients contracted AIDS from contaminated blood—reportedly the worst such infection rate in the world. In 1985 blood collected in prisons accounted for over 25 percent of contaminated blood units. According to a report prepared by the Social Affairs Board of Inspectors and the Legal Services Board of Inspectors, the practice of collecting blood in prisons began in 1954, apparently influenced by what the report calls “economic factors.” As early as 1983, the French Health Inspectorate recommended that blood not be drawn from high-risk donors; yet, prison officials actually sped up the rate of collection in the following year.
Honesty on the Wane
“There is a hole in the moral ozone layer and it is probably getting bigger.” Thus concludes Michael Josephson, founder and president of the Institute of Ethics in California, U.S.A. His institute conducted a survey of nearly 7,000 high school and college students and came up with troubling findings. A third of the high school students and a seventh of the college students admitted to shoplifting within the last year. One eighth of the college students had done all the following: lied to an insurance company, lied on financial aid forms, lied about expenses, and borrowed money with no intention of repaying it. According to Josephson, all this dishonesty in young people is “simply an amplified echo of the worst in the adult world.” The Washington Post sums up his view: “Dishonesty and unethical behavior are widespread among younger Americans because it is increasingly widespread among adults.”
The Australian emu—a large, flightless bird similar to the ostrich—may soon become a significant source of income. In 1991 emu meat was legally classified as a form of poultry. Emu farming may thus take off in the near future. The Sydney Morning Herald quotes a spokesman from the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Services as saying: “Virtually the whole animal can be used. There is even a market for toenails; they polish them and make them into jewellery.” Emu meat is said to be low in fat and cholesterol, yet high in protein. The large birds also yield two kinds of leather: garment quality from their body and reptilian style from their legs. Emus even produce oils that can be used in making cosmetics. Products from one adult emu have a value of between A$300 and A$350.
Indonesia’s Coral Reefs Threatened
“Indonesia’s marine area contains the richest and most diverse coral reef communities in the world,” The Jakarta Post noted recently. Beside being an important tourist attraction and the source of many pharmaceutical and medical products, these complex and beautiful ecosystems protect the shoreline from erosion and soften the impact of storms on coastal communities. The Post reports that the very existence of these precious reefs is now threatened by man’s pollution, by his dredging for construction, by his coral collecting, and by such destructive fishing methods as dynamiting, net dragging, and the use of poisons. The Post reports: “Once a reef is destroyed it takes about 20 years for the first species to reappear and 50 to 100 years for any sort of diversity to return.”
Exercise and Sleep
“For older men, exercise may be the solution to better sleep,” reports the magazine Arthritis Today. In a recent study in North Carolina, U.S.A., a group of 24 men from 60 to 72 years of age was divided into two groups. For at least a year, one group exercised vigorously three times a week or more; the other group exercised minimally and irregularly. The men who exercised regularly and vigorously, it was found, fell asleep on average twice as fast as their sedentary counterparts. This held true whether they were tested on the day that they had exercised or on another day. The magazine adds: “They also spent less time awake at night.”
“Nearly 90,000 children in Britain are regarded as excessive drinkers,” reports The Sunday Times of London. The British government defines a weekly maximum of 21 units of alcohol for men and 14 for women. A unit is one glass of wine or one measure of stronger liquor or half a pint of beer. A recent study of 18,000 British schoolchildren found that 11.5 percent of the 15-year-old boys were drinking more than the recommended weekly limit for adult men. Among girls, 1 in 20 of the 14- and 15-year-olds admitted to drinking more than the limit set for grown women. Researchers believe that these disturbing figures underestimate the real scale of the problem.
Church Failure Promotes Paganism
Hundreds attended a Midsummer’s Night festival recently held in the woods of rural central Russia. This marks a revival of paganism, says Alexei Dobrovolsky, the leader of a small group of nature worshipers. His rituals include walking through fire and “unbaptizing” people, cleansing them from the sprinkled “holy water” of the church. These “pagans” also celebrate the birth of the sun each year on December 25. After some 13 years in labor camps, Dobrovolsky started preaching this pagan revival. Why the call to paganism? He reportedly holds that the Russian Orthodox Church compromised itself by cooperating with the now defunct Communist government. He claims: “The church was always a sell-out. It always served the strong.”
Saving the Desert Elephant
The disease anthrax recently threatened the 29 elephants in Africa’s vast Namib Desert. Conservationists were concerned, as an elephant with anthrax may die within 24 hours. So with international monetary help, they undertook the daunting task of vaccinating the herd from a helicopter. Two men, hanging out precariously on either side, took aim through a churned-up cloud of dust at each milling, panicky elephant. One man shot darts containing the vaccine, the other squirted colored dye to mark each vaccinated elephant. All in all, 21 elephants were successfully “shot” to the satisfaction of the conservationists. The whole costly and dangerous operation was deemed worthwhile in order to save the only true desert elephants in the world.
Reading road maps, talking into tape recorders, using mobile telephones, women changing their stockings. These, according to The Star, a South African newspaper, are some of the things people do while driving, sometimes at speeds in excess of 60 miles per hour. [100 km/hr] One safety official notes that he often sees people flossing their teeth with both hands while driving! Drivers have also been seen brushing and rinsing their teeth. One woman gave her son a haircut while driving him to school. A mother was observed changing her baby’s diaper while driving at 55 miles per hour. [90 km/hr] Why do drivers take such risks? One official said that long distances and traffic congestion may tempt drivers to make “good” use of the time spent in the car. He pointed out, however, that these distractions can result in serious accidents.
Are Cesarean Births Safer?
Many women choose to give birth by cesarean in the belief that surgery will be safer and less painful. According to the Jornal do Brasil, many doctors also prefer to perform a cesarean, since while a normal “birth generally takes on the average from 8 to 12 hours and has no fixed date to occur, the operation can be planned and takes at most an hour.” However, obstetrician Fernando Estellita Lins is quoted as saying: “The number of fatalities, because of infections and hemorrhaging due to surgery, is much higher among women who have a cesarean.” Brazilian research showed that maternal mortality “by vaginal childbirth was 43 per 100 thousand, while by cesarean it was 95 per 100 thousand.”
The Worst Plague in History
The scientific community reconfirms the severity of the Spanish influenza. According to The New York Times Magazine, 196,000 people died in the United States alone during the month of October 1918. “By the end of the winter of 1918-19, two billion people around the world had come down with influenza, and between 20 million and 40 million had died,” the magazine says. John R. La Montagne, an official at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, noted that the Spanish flu of 1918 was “the most devastating epidemic that we have ever had in history.” True, back in the year 1347, the bubonic plague, or Black Death, dealt humankind a devastating blow that lasted four years. But according to the magazine, the 1918 “pandemic killed as many people in a single year as died in the four-year Black Death.”