Watching the World
Better Leadership Wanted
People around the globe are becoming fed up with their leaders. “Some contend,” says The Wall Street Journal, “that the current crop of world leaders just may not be up to the job.” Says former French president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing: “We are witnessing a crisis of representative democracy.” Why the growing public dissatisfaction? Because people “are annoyed by leaders who appear small at a time when the problems facing them are so big,” answers the Journal. It further said: “They are disgusted with finding indecision and corruption when they look for direction. And it is not just individual politicians who are the targets of public frustration: In places like Japan and Italy, the whole political system is being called into question.” While governments do become unpopular in tough economic times, “this situation is exceptional because it is striking in so many places at once, and because it is touching not just incumbents but also opposition parties.” To restore a mood of optimism will take more than an economic upturn, says Mr. Giscard d’Estaing. “Our societies need to have a vision of the future.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses Given Legal Recognition in Mexico
On May 7, Jehovah’s Witnesses were granted legal status as a religion in Mexico. A document guaranteeing such recognition was given them by the Subsecretary of the Government Interior Department on May 31. Thus another step forward was taken toward religious freedom in Mexico. It was on April 1, 1989, that Jehovah’s Witnesses were first able to offer prayer freely at their congregation meetings and use the Bible in their door-to-door ministry. There are over 370,000 Witnesses in Mexico. The Mexican government reformed its laws last year and began to give legal recognition to religious organizations in the country.
Human Rights Meaningless
The UN Center for Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland, estimates that “half of mankind are victims of serious human rights violations,” reports the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. These violations range from torture, rape, and execution to slavery, hunger, and child abuse. The center estimates that between 150 million and 200 million children are pressed into child labor in over 50 lands. In addition millions of persons are victims of racism and hostility toward foreigners. “In an environment of poverty and deprivation, human rights are meaningless,” said Mr. Ibrahime Fall, head of the center. “It is true that we have sent a man to the moon, but the world we live in remains difficult, dangerous, and often lethal.”
Child Prostitution Spreading
“Doctors, police officers and social workers . . . are reporting that children and adolescents are increasingly in demand as prostitutes because clients see them as ‘safer’ and likely to be free of AIDS,” says the International Herald Tribune of Paris. At a recent UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) conference on “the sex trade and human rights” held in Brussels, Belgium, experts confirmed that customers are willing to pay far higher prices for children who are considered to be virgins. While acknowledging that the global AIDS epidemic was a major factor, the experts also pointed out that the many facets of the highly lucrative sex industry “have normalized the open buying and selling of sex and have eroded taboos against sexual exploitation of children.” UNESCO studies show the problem to be particularly rampant in Benin, Brazil, Colombia, Thailand, and the Philippines. An estimated 800,000 of the 2 million Thai female prostitutes are children and adolescents, and over 10,000 boys from 6 to 14 years of age are said to work as prostitutes in Sri Lanka.
The Labors of a Housewife
“She labors like a marathon runner . . . but does not even have the satisfaction of a medal,” says the Italian daily newspaper Il Messaggero in speaking of the ordinary housewife. Research conducted by the Rome Institute for Sports Sciences shows that the energy expended by the average housewife in her domestic work (more than 200 calories per hour) is “comparable to that of a number of sports.” While some sports obviously consume a lot more calories, the statistic becomes more relevant “when you consider that a housewife’s activity is carried out for around eight hours every day.” Record-holding sprinter Marisa Masullo admits: “I get a lot more tired working at home than I do when I am training.”
A Water Planet
If it were spread evenly over the surface of the planet, the world’s water would form a global ocean 1.5 miles [2.5 km] deep, states the magazine People & the Planet. In fact, all the earth’s land surfaces could fit inside the Pacific Ocean basin with plenty of room to spare. Yet, of all the earth’s vast reserves of water, only 3 percent is fresh, not salty. And only 1 percent of the planet’s freshwater is readily accessible to humankind. The rest is locked up in glaciers and ice caps or lies underground. Even so, that 1 percent is enough to sustain two or three times the world’s present population. “Unfortunately,” laments the magazine, “freshwater is very unevenly distributed and is wasted everywhere.” Consequently, according to one estimate, two billion of the earth’s inhabitants live in regions where water is critically scarce.
The Long Life of Refuse
How long does it take for common refuse to decompose? According to figures published by the Italian periodical Focus, it takes from three to six months for paper handkerchiefs or vegetable wastes to be destroyed, from 1 to 2 years for cigarette filters, 5 years for chewing gum, and from 10 to 100 years for aluminum cans. But some plastic materials “remain unaltered for centuries . . . They are not dissolved by water . . . , and no microorganisms are prepared to feed on them.” Polystyrene, commonly used for packing material and for containers for food and drink, will perhaps only be broken down in the course of a millennium, and 4,000 years must pass before glass bottles return to their place in the natural cycle.
Cavities Are Contagious
“Tooth decay is contagious.” So says a report by the Agence France-Presse news service on a study conducted by a Swiss dental school and the World Health Organization. Their research reveals that Streptococcus mutans, bacteria that cause tooth decay, is often passed from the mouth of one family member to another, such as when parents share a spoon with their child or taste baby’s bottle before feeding time. The risk increases according to the quantity of bacteria present in a person’s saliva. The bacteria, which turn sugars into an acid that attacks teeth, seem to flourish particularly in the mouths of children between one and four years of age—when children’s teeth are especially vulnerable to dental decay.
Helmets for Bicyclists
Wear protective headgear! This is the advice that WHO (World Health Organization) is giving to bicyclists. Though protective helmets reduce head injury by 75 percent, Australia is the only country that presently requires cyclists to wear them. In the United States, two thirds of all cycling deaths are caused by injuries to the head and brain, with youngsters between 6 and 14 years of age being at greatest risk. WHO laments: “The reluctance [to wear helmets] shown by some cyclists is difficult to understand, taking into account that no one denies anymore that motorcyclists are efficiently protected by helmets.”
“No one really knows how they get there, but house dust mites live in almost every home,” notes the magazine Science News. Invisible to the human eye, these invertebrates feed on the skin scales that are constantly shed by humans. The creatures can be found in bedding, carpets, and upholstered furniture. How many? Researchers armed with vacuum and microscope studied the dust in two infected homes. A couch in one home yielded 7,454 mites per gram of dust, with an additional 2,361 mites per gram in the carpet under the couch.
Worse Than the Black Death
“In 14th century Europe, the Black Death killed about 25 million people, or one of every four,” states American Health magazine. “New data indicate that if people continue smoking at current rates, cigarettes will kill 10 times that many: at least 250 million, or one of every five people now alive in developed countries.” The findings, based on a massive study of over one million persons, showed that smoking was even more lethal than previously thought. “We had believed that about one in four smokers are killed by their habit,” said Dr. Richard Peto, a professor at England’s Oxford University. “But now we know that at least one-third—and probably substantially more—of all smokers die from it. Smoking’s effect on a nation’s mortality vastly exceeds the impact of any other factor.” Of the 250 million expected deaths, more than half will be of people from 35 to 69 years of age, who will have shortened their lives by an average of 23 years because of smoking.