Watching the World
High Court Rules in Favor of One of Jehovah’s Witnesses
Four years ago one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Florida, U.S.A., lost a significant amount of blood while giving birth to a child by cesarean section. Her doctors felt that they had to transfuse blood in order to save her life. The patient refused to consent to the use of blood on the basis of her values and religious convictions. In an emergency hearing, a local trial court ruled that the patient could be transfused against her will as deemed necessary by her attending physicians. A principal argument was that in the event of the patient’s death, her children would be deprived of her care and protection. This ruling was upheld by a Florida District Court of Appeal. Finally, the case reached the Supreme Court of Florida. That court ruled in favor of the Witness, setting aside the decisions made by the two previous courts, although too late to prevent the unwanted transfusions. The Florida high court stated that parenthood “in and of itself, does not deprive one of living in accord with one’s own beliefs.” Thus, the court strongly endorsed the patient’s right of bodily self-determination and religious freedom.
A Growing Language
Over 330 million persons speak Spanish today. By the year 2000, the number of Hispanics in the United States alone will reach the 35 million mark. By that year Spanish will surpass English and become the most spoken language in the Western world. Thus states the Spanish magazine Cambio16 América. The Instituto Cervantes, an organization for the spreading of the Spanish language, reported a 70-percent increase in the number of persons learning Spanish in the United States between 1986 and 1990, and an 80-percent increase in Japan. Why is there so much interest in this language? The director of the Instituto Cervantes says that people are realizing that Spanish is becoming more and more important in the Western world. Spanish has an additional advantage: It is spoken in many different countries.
More and more people are eating hot peppers. Many who dislike them believe that hot peppers only overwhelm the natural tastes of food. But hot-pepper enthusiasts claim that nothing could be further from the truth. According to Reader’s Digest magazine, a recent book on peppers explains that hot peppers contain an odorless chemical substance that blends in with the sensory cells in the mouth and sensitizes them to the flavor of the food. Some claim that hot peppers are also good for your health. A raw pepper contains more vitamin C than an orange. The hottest known pepper is the habanero from Yucatán, Mexico. It has been said that eating habaneros makes you feel like your head has been separated from the rest of your body. But some would not have it any other way.
Sexually Active Children
A recent survey conducted among grade school students in Connecticut, U.S.A., revealed that 28 percent of sixth graders are sexually active. The ratio went up to 49 percent among eighth graders, and more than 60 percent among tenth graders. Some experts believe that a significant number of even younger children are engaging in sexual activity. To prevent pregnancies among teenage girls and the spread of AIDS, the U.S. Surgeon General recommends that “schools should hand out condoms” to students, according to USA Weekend magazine. Some 50 school districts in the United States have followed this recommendation. One school district in New Haven, Connecticut, is offering the condoms to children as young as ten years old. Opponents of this program maintain that the distribution of condoms to children encourages them to have sex.
Young Problem Drinkers
In a survey of some 14,000 high school students in Japan, 17.3 percent were considered problem drinkers, reports Asahi Evening News. Among the boys the ratio was higher, with 24.8 percent having drinking habits that cause psychological, physical, and social problems. More than half of these young problem drinkers said they drink because they like the taste. One out of 4 said he drinks because he is sad or lonely. “The time has come for those involved with the students to begin seriously addressing the problem,” says Dr. Kenji Suzuki, who conducted the survey. “The students must be taught properly at school and at home,” he added. In Japan the law prohibits drinking by those under the age of 20.
Training Grounds for Criminals
Those who think that most prisoners start out as “extremely dangerous bandits” are fooling themselves, says Brazilian lawyer Noely Manfredini D’Almeida. Rather, she asserts, in Brazil the “typical prisoner is a very poor and very young person who went into crime without having a chance to begin a life of his own.” These young offenders are thrown into prison to live with hardened criminals. According to Veja magazine, these prisons are in reality “machines that produce outlaws. Prisoners with minor offenses are transformed into professional criminals.”
Casualties of Victory
Recently Colombia celebrated the victory of its soccer team as it qualified for the 1994 World Cup soccer tournament. Right after the victorious game in which the Colombian national team defeated the Argentinean team by ‘a score of 5 to 0,’ Colombians took to the streets in a frenzy of festivities. Soon joy turned into tragedy. More than 70 persons were killed during the street parties, according to one report. Also, about 900 persons were injured because of car accidents, drunkenness, or fights. However, one official stated that although the number of casualties is considerable, it is still “quite normal in situations like this.”
Little Concern for Health
“More than a third of all office workers in Germany show no interest in their own health,” reports the Süddeutsche Zeitung. This was the conclusion reached by Claudia Pohle of the Ruhr University in Bochum after asking 343 office workers what they do for their physical, emotional, and social well-being. More than 36 percent of the participants showed little concern for their health; less than 20 percent showed keen, but only short-term interest in the latest trend in exercise. A mere 20 percent were aware of what they needed to do in order to stay healthy, and they behaved accordingly.
The Problem of Obesity
“America is the fattest country in the world,” claims Dr. Robert Kushner, director of the University of Chicago’s Nutrition and Weight Control Clinic. “The number of obese Americans over age 17 jumped to 28 per cent of the population in 1990 from 24 per cent in 1985,” reports The Toronto Star. What is the cause? New research suggests overeating, lack of exercise, and genetics to be the primary reasons. “People are getting heavier, and that is a matter of considerable concern,” says Charlotte Schoenborn of the National Centre for Health Statistics. Obesity can trigger high blood pressure, diabetes, and other serious health problems. Finding answers is not easy. Doctors suggest a change in life-style. “Eat less and exercise more. Once weight is lost, the only thing that really helps to keep it off is physical activity,” adds the Star.
“Violence against children is reaching dramatic levels,” reports Brazilian newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo. When it comes to nonsexual aggression, the percentage of victimized boys is about the same as that of girl victims. But this is not the case with sexual abuse. Among the young victims of sexual violence, about 23 percent are male while 77 percent are female. Not even small children escape domestic violence. According to Miriam Mesquita, professor at the University of São Paulo, “more than 30 percent of the homicide victims under 10 years old are murdered by family members.” About 29 percent of the children murdered by a father, an uncle, a brother, or a stepfather were raped before dying. O Estado de S. Paulo reports that in Brazil about 90 percent of all cases of domestic violence against children go unreported.
“Organized crime has expanded its influence in such an alarming way that a widespread network of criminal organizations is present all over the world,” claims Gianni De Gennaro, the director of anti-Mafia activities for the Italian government. The expansion of criminal groups such as the Italian Mafia, Chinese triads, North American motorcycle gangs, and the criminal class of former Communist lands is a matter of real concern to society. Illegal profits permit the criminals to afford the best technology and expertise, making it difficult for law enforcement agencies to cope with the problem.