Watching the World
The theft-detection devices now installed in many stores and shopping centers may pose a health hazard to people who wear an electronic pacemaker to control their heart rate. The French medical journal Le Concours Médical reports that doctors in France were alerted to the problem by a patient working in a supermarket who complained that his heart rate increased rapidly each time he approached the store’s checkout counters. In testing over 30 different types of pacemakers, the team of doctors found that the electromagnetic fields created by theft-detection systems caused most pacemakers to malfunction, sometimes seriously. The doctors warn that those with pacemakers should be made aware of the danger.
A Deadly Rite
Recently a clinic in San Antonio, Texas, received an unusual number of requests from teenage girls for AIDS tests. An investigation revealed that the girls were having unprotected sex with “HIV-positive gang members” as part of an initiation ritual. According to the New York Daily News, officials noted that the 14- and 15-year-old girls “were doing it to be part of the gang” and to “prove that they’re ‘tough enough’ to beat the AIDS virus.” Many of the girls join the gangs in search of the love and comfort they do not receive at home. But gang life merely exposes them to violence, promiscuity, and sexually transmitted diseases. Citing the remarks of one official, the Daily News said that “most of the girls come from broken homes. Many have been molested by family members.”
Is AIDS Beyond Control?
Is the worldwide spread of AIDS now out of control? It may be, states a 1,000-page report compiled by the Global Aids Policy Coalition based at Harvard University in the United States. According to The Guardian Weekly, the report shows that no nation has been able to stop the spread of AIDS and that those who say the disease has peaked in Europe may be wrong. The report states: “The HIV/Aids pandemic is entering a new, more dangerous phase. As the global threat increases, there are many signs of growing complacency, persistent denial, and resurgent discrimination.”
Harassment of Female Workers
A recent survey at Toronto Hospital, Toronto, Canada, revealed that 70 percent of its female workers complained of having been sexually harassed while at work. According to The Toronto Star, 2 percent of the women report having been sexually assaulted, and 1 percent report having been blackmailed for sex. Many of the women say that they “had been addressed in a disrespectful or inappropriately informal manner” and a large percentage “complained of sexual jokes.” The Star reports that almost 60 percent of female workers “felt unsafe at times in some parts of” the hospital.
Bible Classes at Japanese University
A recent survey of students in the literature department of Japan’s prestigious Waseda University revealed that “many students were eager to learn more about the classics and in particular the Bible, which was felt vital for an understanding of foreign cultures,” reports The Daily Yomiuri. The university, which had already gained distinction in the field of literature, added the Bible classes to its courses starting with the spring semester of 1993. Since the Education Ministry gave universities more freedom to adjust their teaching programs two years ago, this is the first case in Japan in which students were allowed to participate in formulating a school’s curriculum.
The Strain of Jogging
Jogging puts the body’s joints under ten times as much strain as does riding a bicycle, according to a study from the Orthopedic University Clinic in Berlin, Germany. Using an artificial hip devised especially for the purpose, scientists at the university succeeded for the first time in measuring the strain placed on individual joints during various activities. “Although it had been generally assumed that joggers put their tendons and joints under more strain than persons riding a bicycle,” reports Süddeutsche Zeitung, “even the researchers themselves were surprised at such a large divergence.”
Child Prostitution Booms in Asia
“At ten you are a young adult, at twenty you are an old woman, at thirty you are dead.” That, according to National Geographic Traveler magazine, is a common saying about the child prostitutes of Bangkok, Thailand. There are about a million child prostitutes in Asia, many of them younger than ten years old. Tourism, the magazine notes, is feeding this booming illegal industry. Many pedophile organizations in Australia, Japan, the United States, and Western Europe promote ‘sex tours’ to Asian lands. The Times of London reported recently that every year some 5,000 girls are “recruited” from the mountains of Nepal to be prostitutes in the brothels of Bombay, India. Approximately 200,000 are there now, about half of them infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. A highly organized business even exports girls to Western Europe and the United States.
“Why does a church service have to start at 11 a.m. and last for an hour or more?” That question, posed recently by a Baptist minister in Florida, U.S.A., according to an Associated Press report appearing in the Times-West Virginian, has led to a predictable solution. The clergyman offers a “Compact Mini 22-Minute Worship Service” that, he claims, will give him time to “deliver a sermon, lead hymn singing, read Scriptures, say prayers and have his congregation out the door.” The sermon itself will be limited to eight minutes, allowing the minister “to do for church what [fast food restaurant] McDonald’s did for food,” according to the Associated Press. However, the report adds, “plenty of time will be allotted for passing the collection plate.”
Putting the Lid on Dengue Fever
A study in Thailand shows some promise for controlling dengue fever, a disease that afflicts about 100,000 people in that country each year. Dengue fever itself is rarely fatal, but in Southeast Asia it commonly triggers a fatal illness in children. The Aëdes aegypti mosquito spreads dengue fever. Yet, programs relying on insecticides to halt the illness have proved ineffective, expensive, and unpopular, according to Canada’s Medical Post. Recently, scientists at Bangkok’s Mahidol University found that the most common and important breeding sites for the mosquito were the large water-storage jars that people keep at their homes. So they devised lids for the jars that fit snugly like shower caps yet allow for water removal and refilling. When properly used, the covers were 100 percent effective in killing the disease-bearing larvae, the scientists found. Villages using the covers saw dengue fever rates go from between 11 and 22 percent down to 0.4 percent.
If you suffer eyestrain from looking at your television or computer screen, you may find relief by simply placing it lower and directing it upward. This recommendation, from the New England Journal of Medicine, is based on the assumption that people blink their eyes less and open their eyes wider when looking horizontally than when looking downward. Less blinking means less lubrication of the eyes, and opening them wider increases the evaporation of the eyes’ protective layer of moisture.
Churches for Sale
The Roman Catholic Church in Italy does not know exactly how many religious buildings it owns, but one thing is certain: It cannot maintain them all. The number of abandoned church buildings that are slowly decaying increases daily. Thus, Pietro Antonio Garlato, president of the Council for the Cultural Heritage of the Italian Church, said that the church is evaluating whether to sell certain buildings that are no longer used for religious purposes. How many churches will be put up for sale? “A rough preliminary estimate,” explained the bishop in Il Messaggero, “indicates a figure of 10 percent” of the more than 95,000 churches in Italy.
Way Too Loud
A recent study of noise pollution in Berlin, Germany, found that a great many people live with dangerously high levels of noise. The newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung notes that 40 percent of the city’s apartments are on main roads, “where it is almost always too noisy.” In fact, during the daytime the noise level in 95 percent of the rooms facing the streets is above the maximum acceptable of 65 decibels. In a fifth of those rooms, the noise level is 75 decibels. Nighttime noises were also too loud on virtually all streets studied. High noise levels are known to disrupt communication, concentration, and intellectual performance.