Watching the World
Hope for Stutterers
An Australian mother who had suffered the embarrassment of stuttering when a child was devastated at hearing her own children begin to stutter at an early age. So she became involved in a program developed jointly by speech therapists at a Sydney hospital and at Sydney University in New South Wales. The secret of success apparently lies in treating the children as young as possible. Many parents delay addressing the problem in the mistaken view that the child will grow out of the habit. As reported in The Sydney Morning Herald, the program “has been highly successful and offers the first prospect that stuttering might be completely curable.” It notes that it takes therapists only about ten hours to treat young children, but hundreds of hours were needed to treat adults and older children, in addition to the hours spent by parents at home. “Of 43 children treated between the ages of two and five, the ongoing study found that none had relapsed when followed up for between one and six years after treatment,” the paper said.
The “Business” of Religious Tourism
“Religious tourism is on the increase both in Italy and in the [rest of the] world,” writes La Repubblica. Experts estimate that, when tabulated, 1994 will “beat all previous records,” with from 35 million to 37 million visitors to Catholic religious buildings in Italy alone. Italy’s success, says the newspaper, is due to her “30,000 churches listed as being of artistic value, 1,500 sanctuaries, 700 diocesan museums, dozens of monasteries, abbeys, and convents.” The religious tourism constitutes a “business” with a turnover in excess of 4,000 billion lire [$2.5 billion, U.S.], the paper adds, “but in other countries too, religious tourism is having a magical moment.”
Eating Disorders Rising
Why is the number of those with the eating disorders of bulimia and anorexia increasing? Because of emotional conflicts that cause deep anxiety in a world that appears “frightening and out-of-control,” reports the magazine Your Family. The causes of their anxieties are complex, such as parental pressure to achieve, divorce of parents, and abuse. In addition, explains Dr. Danie le Grange, a member of the National Eating Disorders Committee, many fall prey to these disorders by poring over fashion magazines and studying diets in an obsessive effort to be slim or by adopting chaotic eating habits. Women between the ages of 18 and 22 are the most vulnerable, although patients as young as 8 have sought professional help. The victims can be successfully treated only if they want to be, says Dr. le Grange, noting that “full recovery is possible.” However, statistics show that as many as 18 percent of those who fall prey to the eating disorders die.
Delhi’s Missing Persons
More than 10,000 people are reported missing in Delhi, India’s capital, every year. Of these, only a third are ever traced. Fifty percent are children under 18, and males outnumber females 2 to 1. As reported in The Times of India, thousands of young girls end up in brothels. Young boys are forced by gangs of criminals into begging or are made to work long hours for little pay in small restaurants.
Jehovah’s Witnesses in Cuba
Jehovah’s Witnesses in Cuba have been enjoying more freedom to carry out their ministry, which has enabled them to share the good news of God’s Kingdom with the people. Though the work is not officially recognized and legalized, they have been allowed use of their former offices and have met together more freely for worship—to such a degree that they have held small assemblies. They have been authorized to print magazines. Filled with joy and enthusiasm by these recent events, the Witnesses continue their work of preaching, striving to communicate the Bible’s message of hope.
Antarctica—Once Warm and Green
A group of Australian and American scientists found fossils of “leaves, wood and pollen along with moss and insect eggs . . . just 500km [300 miles] from the South Pole, indicating a climate 20-25C [35°-45° F.] warmer than today,” reports the newspaper The Australian. The discovery of beetle eggs confirmed that the climate was warm enough to sustain insects. Additionally, water must have remained liquid, and the growing season lasted long enough for the plants to flower and set seed. During that same time, the report added, there were plants growing in Tasmania (the island state of Australia south of the mainland) that today grow no farther south than central New South Wales, a little less than 1,000 miles [1,600 km] to the north—providing indirect corroboration that a warmer climate once nurtured the region.
Radial Keratotomy Update
Radial keratotomy, the popular surgical technique to correct myopia (poor distance vision) is performed on over a quarter million people in the United States each year. A second operation to fine-tune the first one is needed in over 30 percent of the cases. Now, a ten-year study sponsored by the National Eye Institute has determined “that the method is reasonably safe and effective but that it may lead to an accelerated decline in the ability to see things up close,” reports The New York Times. The detailed study on the aftermath of the surgery has turned up a previously little-known aftereffect: gradual changes in the eye that cause close-up vision to become progressively fuzzier. The visual decline was noted in 43 percent of those who underwent the surgery. While some of it could be attributed to normal aging, some “appeared to be attributable to the radial keratotomy procedure, which seemed to cause the change in some people at an earlier age,” the article said. “People should realize there are still unresolved issues,” said Dr. Peter J. McDonnell, cochairman of the study. “There is no guarantee of perfect vision.”
Relief for the Allergic
According to the World Health Organization, 20 percent of the world population have some kind of allergy, reports the Brazilian magazine Globo Ciência. “All indications are that allergies are a disease of civilization,” says immunologist Júlio Croce. “In the air there are more than ten thousand harmful substances.” Added to common causes, such as mites and pollution, are stress, excessive use of medicine, and chemical products used in food, cosmetics, and beverages. Even excessive physical exercise can lead to or aggravate asthma. However, if people learn correct breathing, “exercise can help to reduce the intensity and frequency of the attacks,” Dr. Croce says. Allergics should keep their bedroom clean and well ventilated and avoid contact with domestic animals, such as dogs, cats, or birds, as well as perfumes and other strongly scented products. They should also avoid sudden temperature changes, smoking, and alcoholic beverages and should take only prescribed medicine.
Deciphering Bureaucratic Vagueness in Japan
In Tokyo, when bureaucrats say, “Your opinion is valuable advice” or, “We will respond prudently to your suggestion,” it means that no further action is likely to be taken. Likewise, promises to “consider comprehensively” or “consider from many points of view” are also unlikely to produce tangible results. “We will study your proposal” generally means that nothing will change in the near future. Promises to “consider” are slightly more positive than “study,” and “thoroughly consider” means that an idea might even be implemented. Thus a senior bureaucrat explained terms commonly used during Tokyo City assembly meetings, says The Daily Yomiuri, in response to citizens’ complaints that they have “no clear idea as to whether the government is for or against” submitted proposals. The reason for vagueness, states the newspaper, is that “bureaucrats are careful not to make assembly members lose face by bluntly rejecting their suggestions.”
Medicines in the Garbage
According to a German health insurance company, the quantity of medicines sold or prescribed in Germany is so high that each man, woman, and child could take 1,250 pills a day. What do people do with all these products? A huge number are not used, reports Süddeutsche Zeitung, but are simply thrown away. “We cannot afford to allow medicines worth millions to land in the garbage year after year,” lamented the head of an association of health insurance companies. They have requested that physicians and the pharmaceutical industry give patients more detailed information about the medicines they receive and do so in “understandable German.”